Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Horrible Diseases We Love, Chapter Three: Polycythemia

There is always the need for blood donations but one man who has a lot to give, can't. He suffers from a disease that affects only 15 people per million in the U.S. and Europe. It is a frustrating situation for Tom Riles. The very thing that causes him to produce a surplus of red blood cells is also what prevents him from donating blood.

For Riles, it's become routine, the containers, and the needles. Tuesday he underwent his 51st blood draw, but he's not donating, he's doing what's called bleeding the patient.

Riles says, "They told me I’d have to keep getting blood out all the rest of my life." Taking his blood out helps him stay alive, but, it also goes to waste. Because of Riles' condition, he can't donate his blood to anyone else. With an increased risk of blood clots, Polycythemia patients have to get rid of a pint of blood one to two times a week.

People with untreated PV are at a risk of various thrombotic events (deep venous thrombosis, pulmonary embolism), heart attack and stroke, and have a substantial risk of Budd-Chiari syndrome (hepatic vein thrombosis). The condition is considered chronic; no cure exists.
As a 5 year old child, I remember distinctly being worried about this. I'd been in an accident and bled a lot and was concerned about getting more blood into me. I was told my body makes new blood all the time. Since I wasn't planning on bleeding a lot any more, I started to worry that my body would make too much blood, and that it would eventually start leaking and squirting out all over the place.


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2:51 AM  

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