One bruise and a transplant

by Amanda Holland

Bruises the size of softballs were scattered among Elizabeth Turner’s legs and she had no clue why.

Liz didn’t know what was happening to her body. She started to go to her doctor at the UCONN Health Center. Appointment after appointment, week after week and only one answer was found. Liz’s platelet count was dangerously low.

(Photo: Liz Turner)

Where most people average 150,000 to 400,000 platelets, Liz only had 17,000.

More tests, and different medications were offered to Liz to try to increase her count, but nothing was working. The tests and medications began to take a toll on her. “I was totally wiped out physically, emotionally and mentally,” she said. Sleeping through most of

With her levels continuing to drop, she was referred to Massachusetts General Hospital, where they continued to struggle to find a cure for her. Thinking it was low platelet disease, they gave her meds that again, failed to work. She was referred to more specialists, this time at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

After five months of waiting Liz received the diagnosis of Aplastic Anemia, also known as bone marrow failure. The cause for the disease, unknown.

Relief for Liz was brief. She would have to receive a bone marrow transplant in order to live. Receiving this transplant meant that Liz had to put her life on hold. No going out to eat, no dates with her boyfriend Kevin, no more work at Kohls, and no traveling. She had to live life in a bubble to avoid infection.

On January 21, 2017 Liz walked into Brigham and Women’s Hospital, five days before the transplant, bracing herself for what was to come. “Walking into a hospital to admit yourself for over a month feels like walking into the police to turn yourself in” she said. She knew there was no turning back.

After five days of chemotherapy to kill the bone marrow cells, and one long transplant, Liz had a “new birthday.” At 8:20 p.m. January 27, 2016 the marrow was flowing and agreeing with Liz’s body.

For her first month she lived in the halls of the hospital. “My day usually consisted of breakfast, showering, a walk around the pod, hanging out coloring or watching tv, and of course a nap,” said Liz.

On February 12, Liz was able to go home, and only home. She had to wear gloves and a mask when leaving home for hospital appointments to avoid illness. The house had to be cleaned on a daily basis, and Liz had to stick to a particular diet. On the first visit to see Liz, everyone had to wear gloves and a mask.

The check-ups at Dana Farber decreased as the year progressed, and her life slowly began to return to normal. Her dark brown hair which she lost shortly after the transplant continued to grow back, she was no longer fatigued from the meds and she could attend places outside of her home and the hospital.

Almost two years later, Liz lives a normal life. Checkups every few months and the daily meds are what remind Liz of what she faced. She is thankful for the donor who was able to help save her life. “Thank you to the complete stranger who took time out of his own life to help save mine,” Liz said. “I hope someone pays it forward to him one day.”

(Photo: Liz Turner)

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