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I Received Blood
When Lynette gave blood in 1992, it never occurred to her that this would be her last donation, and that just several months later she would be on the receiving end of a life-saving blood transfusion.
That is exactly what happened to the loyal blood donor. Lynette booked a doctor appointment to sort out a cough she just couldn’t shake, and with her regular GP away from work Lynette took a chance and booked in to see someone different, a decision which may have saved her life.
“The doctor gave me medicine for my cold, but as I was leaving he stopped me in my tracks remarking that I was looking very yellow. He decided to do a blood test to check it out,” says Lynette. “Several days later I went back to see him and I was sent straight to Hawke’s Bay Hospital.”
It took several years, the removal of a swollen spleen and more blood transfusions than Lynette can count, before she learned she had cold agglutinin disease, a type of haemolytic anaemia. Her red blood cells were being broken down much faster than normal and her bone marrow could not keep up.
This rare blood disorder affects Lynette’s immune system, causing her body to make unusual antibodies that react with her own red blood cells at cool temperatures. The antibodies are a problem because they bind to red cells in her hands, nose and other cool extremities and then activate inflammation proteins called Complement, which stick to the red cells. The spleen destroyed the cells as they were mistaken for foreign invaders.
The cold agglutinin disease causes jaundice, which first led Lynette’s doctor to make her diagnosis. It also causes her hands and nose to often go purple and, like other types of anaemia, she suffers fatigue and headaches among a host of other symptoms. It also makes Lynette extra sensitive to the cold.
Because of her reaction to the cold, Lynette needs her blood transfusions to be warmed up first. “They use a warming machine” she says, which warms the blood as it flows from the blood donation. “I feel the difference about a day after the treatment; it’s like I come back to life again.”
If that was not enough, four years ago Lynette was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of cancer that affects lymphocytes - the white blood cells produced in the bone marrow. It meant that Lynette also received chemotherapy treatment and courses of platelets, and many more blood transfusions. The transfusions have kept Lynette going and enabled her doctors to press on with her treatment.
Despite it all, the Napier woman maintains a positive attitude. “I’ve got a lot to live for!” she exclaims.
Lynette is full of praise for the team at Villa 6 at Hawke’s Bay Hospital who have been a constant support, and for all the blood donors who have helped to save her life.
“I have had more blood transfusions than I can count on fingers and toes,” she says. “I am so grateful to all the generous people who have donated blood; they have definitely helped save my life.”
With her cancer now in remission, Lynette has gone for almost three months without having a blood transfusion; something she considers to be quite the victory.
“When I was admitted to hospital the first time, my red blood cell count was only 50. Doctors couldn’t believe I was still with them,” says Lynette. “At my last test, my blood count was over 100 for the first time in years; I’m pretty proud of that.”
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