By Alyce Collins
THE SMALLEST of cuts left this woman bleeding for HOURS on end with nosebleeds lasting 24 hours leaving her mystified until doctors diagnosed her with a rare bone marrow disorder.
Account manager, Natalia Slazak (31) from Buckinghamshire, UK, started noticing severe bruises on her legs despite not remembering any cause for them, and the smallest of cuts would bleed for hours, before doctors diagnosed Natalia with a rare bone marrow disease called aplastic anaemia.
At the start of 2018, Natalia showed bizarre symptoms of a then unknown disease, and she was in and out of hospital for months before she was finally diagnosed with aplastic anaemia, requiring a bone transplant from her brother.
Natalia’s symptoms included bleeding gums, extensive bruises and constant bleeding from tiny cuts or grazes because she had a blood platelet count of six, compared to a healthy person’s count of 400 platelets.
Aplastic anaemia can be hereditary, but Natalia’s appeared to develop of its own accord. It can be treated with a bone marrow transplant which gives a 90 per cent chance of survival, although it can lead to leukaemia or bone marrow cancer. Aplastic anaemia affects approximately one-in-25,000 people in Europe and America.
“My condition is really rare which is what makes me special,” said Natalia.
“I noticed bruises on my legs and I had a constant bleeding. If I cut my cuticles, which is the smallest cut ever, I would bleed for a few hours non-stop.
“The symptoms of aplastic anaemia are low blood counts, low counts of red and white blood cells as well as platelets. It means that you bleed all the time and any small cut can bleed for ages.
“One day my nose was bleeding for a whole day without stopping and I had to have a platelet transfusion because the bleeding stopped me from eating or drinking anything.
“I also can’t eat outside because the body has a low count of neutrophils, which make up the immune system. So, if I was to eat outside it would be very easy to get an infection which would be very dangerous or sometimes even deadly.
“I was in the hospital for a month and had to have hundreds of blood and platelet transfusions to keep me alive. Then I had a week of very intensive chemotherapy to kill the immune system completely which would prepare it for the upcoming transplant from my brother.
“I was so happy to actually have a donor because there’s only a one in four chance of the sibling being a donor, and I only have one brother so there wasn’t much other option. But he was a 100 per cent donor match.
“Before going into the hospital for my transplant I did catch a few infections on several occasions which meant spending around five days in hospital for treatment.
“Infections can be deadly for someone with aplastic anaemia, so it’s important to be extra careful when doing things. For example, I now wash fruit and vegetables in washing up liquid because before I ended up in the hospital on antibiotics due to the bacteria I’d contracted.”
Due to the severity of Natalia’s aplastic anaemia requiring a transplant, she underwent a round of chemotherapy and had to have steroids after to prevent her body from rejecting the transplant.
Natalia was warned about the problems that chemotherapy could cause her, including infertility and hair loss, and following this she later gained nine-pounds overnight due to the medications that were being pumped into her body.
“Before I went to hospital, I was told to freeze my eggs as chemotherapy affects your fertility, and they also told me to shave my hair off,” said Natalia.
“Thankfully I didn’t get any of the side effects from the chemotherapy, I guess I was the lucky one.
“I gained nine-pounds overnight a few days after the chemotherapy. Most of it was fluids as I was on steroids to make sure the transplant would work and so that I didn’t get a disease.
“At that time, I didn’t look like myself at all, which was really hard but even still, it’s a small price to pay to be alive now.
“Hopefully I won’t have to have any more treatments, but I’ll never be sure of that. I just have to take each day as it comes and enjoy my life.
“I feel much stronger and I already feel like a winner no matter what anyone else might think. I won the fight and I am alive, and that’s priceless.
“It could come back again, and it could be worse, but I know I will fight again if I have to and I will try to win again.
“For anyone else who might be going through a battle with aplastic anaemia, try to stay positive and never give up. Keep fighting and don’t let illness rule your life.
“Positive thinking can do miracles, I can tell you that much. I am just an example of it because I never stopped being positive.”
To find out more, visit Natalia’s Instagram, @nataliaslazak.