There’s been many life changing moments in the years I’ve been on this earth; birth, obviously being the main one. The bob I got in 2007 probably being another (I don’t have the face shape for a haircut that stops at your chin let’s just say that) and of course deciding to start up Brighton Girl Problems being the best and most worthwhile one of all. But, in May 2013 my life really did change forever.
I was a young woman, happy go lucky without a care in the world. I’d never been seriously ill, aside from a few bumps and bruises and the odd trip to hospital for an injury that was down to my own clumsiness.
I was like every other young person who takes their health for granted, and rightly so. If you’ve never been seriously unwell before, you don’t really think about appreciating your health. It’s just there, and you’ve never doubted it’s working power and its existence.
To me, bad things didn’t happen to me. They happened to people on the news. I was completely indestructible.
It was coming up to bank holiday weekend and I woke up to a slight nosebleed. I’d had these a few times when I was little so I didn’t think anything of it. Nosebleeds can occur for all types of reasons; I never expected it would be anything bad.
The next morning, the same thing happened, waking up to a light nosebleed. I wasn’t worried, not in the slightest. Bad things didn’t happen to me. They just didn’t.
It was bank holiday weekend and I was getting ready to go and meet my friends. I went to pluck a stray hair from my eyebrows with my tweezers. We’ve all been there with eyebrow plucking – you accidentally punch a bit of skin instead of a hair and it stings like mad for a few seconds.
That’s what happened to me, only within 10 minutes the bit of skin I had plucked had turned into a small black bruise. Strange, I thought. I must’ve really plucked that bit of skin hard.
The next morning I woke up to my nose bleeding again, only heavier this time. And something new – my gums were bleeding too. I pulled a mirror out and saw that my gums were covered in small blood blisters with blood seeping out of them. Fear shot through me. What was going on? Why was I suddenly bleeding? I’d had a drink the night before – had I had a random allergic reaction? Had I knocked myself during the night? I didn’t know.
I was getting myself stressed and decided to go back to sleep. It was probably nothing and I was just getting myself worried over nothing. Only when I woke up, my gums and nose were bleeding heavier than ever. It was useless even wiping the blood away anymore because the second I did, it was spilling back out again.
It was then that I looked down at my body, and my heart stopped. My legs were covered in tiny, purple and red bruises. They were travelling up, beginning to appear on my hips and stomach. What was going on? I went into the bathroom and had a further look at myself. Black bruises had started to appear on my face.
I realised I was bursting for the toilet; and when I went, pure blood poured out of me. I rushed straight to the hospital.
I remember walking through A&E waiting room, whilst my mum pushed past the queue of people waiting at the reception desk, telling the receptionist that I needed to be seen to right this second.
Blood spilled from my nose and mouth onto the Lino floor of the waiting room. I was taken in to a room to have blood taken and a candular put in my hand.
They put me in a room, gave me a hospital gown and went off to test my blood.
They thought I had leukaemia, at first. The bruises and bleeding are the main signs, and my family who had now gathered at my bedside were absolutely petrified. I didn’t feel anything – so much had happened in such a short space of time that I couldn’t even begin to process it yet.
The doctors and consultants came back in to say my blood tests had shown no sign of leukaemia or any other major diseases they had tested for, but that they had come back showing that I had 0 platelets which was near enough impossible and they needed to do my blood tests again because there must have been a mistake.
Platets are basically what clots your blood; they’re the things which ensure every time you give yourself a shaving cut or scrape your knee that you don’t bleed to death.
I was given 35 steroid tablets to take whilst they redid my blood tests, and then they came back to tell me that the first tests had been right; I had absolutely no platelets, nothing whatsoever to clot my blood.
I spent the night in a ward in intensive care. I remember I barely slept because the ward was so loud, constant monitors and machines beeping and flashing, doctors and nurses rushing in and out and shouting, patients vomiting and having coughing fits and even worse things like heart attacks and strokes all throughout the night.
First thing the next morning, at around 7am, a doctor came in to do some more tests on me and told me that left untreated, I wouldn’t have had long left at the rate I was losing blood.
More doctors and consultants came in at the same time my family arrived and diagnosed me with Idiopathic Immune Thrombocytopenia.
Basically, I had nothing to clot my blood and they needed to act fast.
I was put in a wheelchair and wheeled to the room where they do the CAT and MRI scans. They needed to do a scan of my brain to ensure I wasn’t bleeding from the brain, as more often than not, that results in death.
I remember lying flat on my back, strapped in as they did a scan of my brain and thinking ‘How is this my life now? What did I ever do that has made this happen to me?’.
I wasn’t bleeding from the brain but I was bleeding from my kidneys and haemorrhaging in my right eye.
I was then moved onto a main ward, where I was sandwiched between two old men who were dying and that is the honest truth. Both were on their last legs and it was such a horrible experience. I began thinking ‘Is this where they’ve brought me to die?’.
I began having platelet transfusions and blood transfusions even though the blood was just coming straight back out of me. My gums and nose were still pouring and I was urinating nothing but pure blood. I remember that just the tissues used to soak up the blood from my nose filled up 5 bins within 1 hour because my bleeding was so severe.
I was a shadow of my former self; usually with long curly hair, a full face of makeup and a tan, I was feeble, pale, weak and vulnerable. My hair was greasy and unwashed, my body was frail and my face was round and bloated from the water retention from the steroids. My face was covered in dried blood and black bruises.
My best friends came to visit me on my second day in hospital; turning up looking the picture of health with makeup and shiny hair I already felt like they were mythical creatures who I would never, ever look like again.
I was so unrecognisable, such an absolute horror to look at that my friend actually fainted in the middle of the hospital when she saw me.
I couldn’t physically stomach hospital food so my parents would bring me up Nandos, Dominoes, homemade curries and Subways from the hospital complex. My steroids made me have bizarre and horribly strong cravings at random times. Raspberries, broccoli, chocolate milk and pancakes were all things that I craved so badly that I cried until I got them.
I became badly anaemic from the blood loss and was also on iron tablets. I had about 20-30 needles put in me a day and my arms became green with the amount of bruises from where I was constantly having needles put in me.
After about 6 days, I began gaining platelets again and was on the road to recovery. I was still having transfusions and constant medication but I was beginning to recover.
I won’t go on about the details of being discharged or what happened after I got out of hospital, but I got better. It was most likely brought on by a viral infection I’d had a few weeks before, and in trying to fight the virus off, my body had attacked itself and killed all of my platelets.
The reason for this blog post isn’t to gain sympathy or for people to think I’m a wonderful, amazing person for being in hospital with a serious illness. The truth is, there are people who were and are 100 times sicker than me, who aren’t as lucky as me and haven’t made it through, who have a disease they are dying of, and who are in incredible amounts of pain.
The reason for this blog post is to explain how precious life really is. We think we are untouchable, but really, we aren’t.
You can go to bed one night and wake up the next morning to your whole life having changed forever.
Appreciate your loved ones; yes they probably annoy you no end, as mine do too. Your boyfriend probably makes you so angry at times you want to skin him alive. But honestly, at any second, anyone could be taken from us and we will never regret loving too much, only not loving enough.
Follow your dreams and don’t care what anyone thinks of you. Life really is too short to ever doubt yourself or waste an evening crying because someone’s upset you or you don’t have enough money or anything else that is minimal and unimportant in the wider scheme of things.
I hope that you all enjoyed this blog post and that you will all go to bed with a slightly more positive outlook on your life tonight. You really do need to live every single moment like it’s your last. That doesn’t mean you need to go skydiving and doing massively incredible activities every single day – just that you need to tell the people you love that you love them, and try and spend as much of your life as you possibly can, being happy.
This blog post is dedicated to my family for being whole heartedly there for me throughout everything and to the nurses, doctors and consultants on the Haemotology & Oncology ward at Sussex County Hospital. You are all truly amazing and without you I wouldn’t be here today. I can’t thank you enough for everything you did for me but I hope that you get the recognition you deserve.
”Life will hit you, hard. Wait for you to get back up just so it can kick you in the stomach. But getting the wind knocked out of you is the only way to remind your lungs how much they like the taste of air” – Sarah Kay.
All my love BGP xx