Losing the Rugby World Cup hasn’t stopped Aussie platelet recipient from singing Kiwis praises

Arriving in Auckland from Northern Queensland, Australian couple Dawn and Mal had just embarked on their trip of a lifetime. 

With a year-long backpacking holiday around New Zealand and plans to hit Europe next; it was a long-awaited adventure for the grandparents of three.

Unfortunately the adventure didn’t last long. Barely 36 hours into the trip, Dawn was admitted to Auckland’s Middlemore Hospital with a platelet count of less than 10.

Platelets are any cells in your blood that help to form clots and stop bleeding. A normal adult has platelet levels of 150,000-450,000 cells and anything under 100,000 is a cause for concern.

 “I was feeling pretty tired on our first night, but I put it down to jet lag and the excitement of our trip,” tells Dawn.

“Then I noticed some blisters in my mouth and some strange spotted bruising where I had been carrying the shopping on my arm earlier. When I woke up the blisters were full of blood, and I thought I better get myself off to the doctor”

Dawn was diagnosed with idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), an auto immune disease where her body was attacking the platelets in her blood. Her treatment included platelet transfusions and two courses of plasma product, IV Immunoglobulin.

Platelets and plasma are both donated using an apheresis machine and it collects your blood via a small needle in the arm.  The machine removes the required platelet or plasma components before returning the rest to the donor using the same needle.

While plasma can be stored for up to two years, platelets only have a five day shelf life. It is a constant balancing act for the New Zealand Blood Service to maintain a steady supply.

The couple hasn’t let Dawn’s diagnosis stop them from enjoying their trip. They bought a car and have seen everything from snow on Mt Taranaki, to stargazing on Mt Cook, visited Milford Sound, and were lucky enough to spot three kiwi birds in the wild.

“It has truly been an amazing experience. The wonderful welcome we have experienced from New Zealanders all over the country has been incredible. What could have been a horrific ordeal was made better by the kindness we have experienced both at the hospital during my treatment and as we have travelled around the country.

“The Kiwis were even gracious winners when we watched the Rugby World Cup final surrounded by All Blacks fans!” Dawn laughs.

Her illness is an ongoing struggle for Dawn who admits fatigue left her unable to do all of the tramps that she and Mal intended to do. The couple decided to cut their trip short, so that Dawn can return home for further treatment surrounded by her family in Australia.

Although unable to donate herself, Dawn has always supported the cause in other ways by spreading the word through social media and getting behind her friends who donate.

“I am truly thankful to the New Zealanders who unselfishly donate their blood to people like me. It is a truly wonderful thing to be able to do for someone else.”

To find out more about becoming a platelet or plasma donor, click here or call 0800 GIVE BLOOD.

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