A BRAVE Psychology graduate from Colne has spoken out about the difficulties of living with a rare and life-threatening disorder.
Sam McCartney (38), of Hagg Street, had her life turned upside down when she was unexpectedly diagnosed with Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (TTP) earlier this year.
Now, Sam has shared her story with the Colne Times, to urge more local residents to donate blood, and to help other TTP patients receive the help they need. Had it not been for people giving donations, the former UCLan student said she might not be alive today.
Having suffered a blow to the head in February, Sam took herself to the A&E department at Accrington Victoria Hospital, where she was quickly transferred to the Royal Blackburn Hospital and given the devastating diagnosis.
The disorder, which sees platelets clump together and form small clots in the body, caused Sam’s kidneys to fail, and she suffered a stroke in March. She now has to deal with joint pains and tiredness on a daily basis.
Any hopes of getting pregnant, or pursuing a career in psychology, have now also been thwarted, and decisions like where to go on holiday have become a huge problem, since Sam can only visit countries that offer treatment if she should relapse.
A person diagnosed with TTP needs urgent treatment of plasma exchange, and some patients will also need whole blood at points during their treatment and recovery.
Sam, who currently works for Alderson and Horan Funeral Services, said: “The frightening thing is you don’t know that you’ve got TTP.
“The symptoms can easily be attributed to other things, because they are things like tiredness, bruising and nausea.
“I banged my head and it came up in a massive lump the next day. I thought I had concussion. Without blood donations, I wouldn’t be here. It is a very, very rare disease.
“I am not allowed to give blood, but I can do my little bit by raising awareness. Giving blood is quite painless, and it is so easy to do.”
According to a British Journal of Haematology online publication there are only six cases of TTP per million per year in the UK.
As recently as 15 years ago, 80% of patients did not survive TTP, but this statistic has now reversed. The key to the figure is early diagnosis and treatment. Sam, who now has to go for monthly check-ups in Liverpool, thankfully got herself to hospital early, and has had plenty of support from her family, friends and partner, Christopher Dean, who lives in Cliviger.
But while her TTP may not currently be active, there is the possibility that she could relapse at any time.
Sam, who describes her condition as an “invisible illness”, added: “It came as a big shock, and it is hard. You’re just not the same person that you were before. It gets to weekend and I am shattered. It affects your social life as well, because you just don’t want to push yourself.
“Luckily I have had a lot of support. There is a group on Facebook that has been useful,and there is also the TTP Network.”
Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson, who is a blood donor himself, is backing Sam in her appeal and hopes that more residents in Pendle will take the time to give blood. He said: “I first started giving blood when I was 17-years-old and have donated 14 or more times since then, including a donor session at the Muni in Colne and one in Barnoldswick.
“Most people are able to give blood, but very few find the time to help others in this way. I applaud Samantha for her efforts to recruit new blood donors, especially at a time when blood stocks are low.”
The next Colne blood sessions will take place at The Muni, in Albert Road, from 1-15pm to 3-30pm, and 5-15pm to 7-30pm, on October 30th. Contact 0300 123 2323 visit www.blood.co.uk for more information.