‘Miracle patient’ Graham Stansfield celebrated a dream wedding after defying the odds to survive a rare, life-threatening blood disorder.
Graham married Catherine Fletcher (54) on his 60th birthday in Burnley Register office – 16 months after Graham was diagnosed with TTP and given a 10% chance of survival.
Catherine said: “We didn’t want the wedding to be anything big, but if it wasn’t for the treatment Graham received last year, I don’t think we would both be here to celebrate at all.“
TTP, or Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic Purpura, is a rare disease that affects around six to eight people per million per year.
The condition affects blood circulation, whereby little clots form in blood vessels throughout the body. This can limit the flow of oxygen to vital organs, causing organ failure, brain damage and stroke.
Because the disease is so rare it can sometimes be misdiagnosed and failure to treat the problem can be devastating.
If it wasn’t for the treatment Graham received last year, I don’t think we would both be here to celebrate at allWife Catherine
One evening Graham, a former bricklayer, started to feel extremely tired and unwell after finishing work.
Following a visit to his local GP, he was admitted to Blackburn General Hospital, where consultants started to suspect he might have the disease.
As one of only two official specialist TTP centres in the UK, Graham was rushed to the Royal Liverpool University Hospital
Consultant and TTP Specialist Centre lead Dr Tina Dutt said: “When Graham arrived he was distressed. He deteriorated quickly and we had to inform his partner Catherine of how serious his condition was.
“There is very little awareness of TTP but it is vital the disorder is treated urgently.”
Graham’s now-wife Catherine said: “Staff at the Royal told me Graham had a 20% chance of survival. Later I found out they were trying to remain positive and his chances were closer to 10%.
“He had two cardiac arrests during the first 48 hours of treatment – if he’d have had a third he probably wouldn’t have left the hospital alive.”
To treat the disorder, Graham underwent plasma exchange daily, a procedure that removes and then replaces plasma in the blood with new plasma and greatly improves the chances of survival following a TTP attack.
Dr Dutt said: “Despite treatment, Graham’s condition failed to improve. It was not clear whether the TTP had affected Graham’s kidney, heart and brain function irreversibly but Catherine and the specialist team remained positive.
“Graham spent a significant time in Intensive Care and we used a drug treatment only a handful of people in the UK have received. This treatment meant Graham was finally allowed to leave the hospital. We see him as a miracle patient and I’m very proud of the TTP team’s work and commitment, as well as the couple’s resilience over the past 16 months.”
Following lengthy treatment, Graham left the Royal 12 weeks after he was first admitted. As a side effect of the disorder, Graham is now partially sighted and partially deaf, as well as requiring follow up with the Stroke Consultant for long-term neuropsychological effects.
Graham now visits the Royal on an almost weekly basis and the couple regularly find time to go and see the staff from the TTP centre.
The couple are even looking at moving to Liverpool to be closer to the Royal.
Catherine said: “We visit the TTP team roughly once a month. I don’t see them as a group of people who care for Graham anymore as they’re more like friends now. We even received a card on our wedding day signed by the staff, which was so thoughtful.”
Catherine and Graham married in August close to their home in Burnley – the same day as Graham’s 60th birthday. Catherine said: “It was a small service, with a few close friends and family.
“We had to put our honeymoon to the Isle of Wight off for a few weeks as we had rather a lot of appointments at the Royal. You could say our first honeymoon was in Liverpool!”
TTP: The Facts
Thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura
Also known as Moschcowitz syndrome
Initially described by Dr Eli Moschcowitz at the Beth Israel Hospital, New York, in 1925
Rare disorder of the blood-coagulation system, causing microscopic clots to form in small blood vessels throughout the body
Its cause has been linked to the inhibition of a certain enzyme by antibodies, making it an autoimmune disease
The mortality rate is around 95% for untreated cases