Platelet Mishap! #BloodTransfusions

During my treatment for Leukaemia I had numerous blood transfusions and platelets.

I have learnt so much about cancer treatment in the past year, one of them being that cancer patients often need transfusions, I had no idea before!  So folks keep on donating blood, I used to before I had Leukaemia.

At first I found it hard to even look at the blood going into my vein…I just felt uneasy about it…this was something from another person’s body and was yet another thing to get my head around. Obviously in the end I had so many that I got used to it.

One of my many transfusions

Transfusions are needed due to extremely low levels of platelets in the blood caused by the cancer. However, even though I was given the correctly matched blood my body started to reject it, something called ‘transfusion refractory thrombocytopenia’.  This is the body’s immune system reacting to proteins in the donated blood.

When a tissue is transplanted whether it is a kidney, stem cell or blood the recipient’s immune system may recognise it as being from a foreign source and respond by rejecting the transplanted tissue. The antibodies in the recipient’s body cause the rapid destruction of the transfused platelets preventing the control of bleeding, I was actually passing blood.  It is a problem that many AML patients have.
As this happened in my body red dots started rapidly appearing all over my skin and my legs became really swollen.  As soon as the nurses saw this reaction they rushed to speak to my consultant.  After this I was given specially HLA matched blood.  This is where the antigens in the blood between donor and recipient are matched.

The science bit!!!
HLA stands for Human Leucocyte Antigen and they exist on the surface of platelets but are not found on red cells.  HLA is a part of the protective mechanism of our immune system and its used to distinguish between ‘self’ and foreign antigens that may enter the body.  When this happens antibodies are made to destroy these foreign cells.  Most patients don’t need HLA matched platelets but, they are used a lot for patients who have Leukaemia.

When this happened to me it was really frightening as my body was rejecting something it desperately need in order to survive.  I was really distressed at the time as I was already very ill and this was yet another set back, yet another heart stopping moment!
Red dots on my skin sent alarm bells ringing!

1 thought on “Platelet Mishap! #BloodTransfusions”

  1. […] A patients will usually need numerous blood transfusions and platelets (I had 33 infusions overall).  This is due mainly to extremely low red blood cells and platelets because of the Leukaemia.  During each transfusions a patient’s temperature and blood pressure is closely monitored for any potential adverse reactions.  I reacted badly which meant I had to have specially matched blood going forward… click here for more on what happened to me My Transfusion Drama! […]


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