Jo’s Story

Jo was 19 when diagnosed with aplastic anaemia in 2003. Here is her story:

Hi, I’m Joanne Hendy and at 19 I was diagnosed with severe aplastic anaemia. Anyone reading this who has been affected by aplastic anaemia will appreciate the emotional journey you unwittingly embark on. The wonderful AAT, their List of Contacts and newsletters help you to realise that you’re not alone. I distinctly remember reading an article and seeing a photo of a guy graduating having overcome aplastic anaemia. This spurred me on during my darkest days and in some small way, I hope to do the same with my story.

With a platelet count of five, Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge identified my condition and Professor Warren took me under his care. I received both ALG and ATG alongside cyclosporine, it was a slow process as I had a severe intolerance to both; anaphylactic reaction, raised wheals all over my body, achy joints and then viral meningitis. At this, my lowest point, I couldn’t complete the whole course of treatment because of these reactions so I remained on cyclosporine for a long while. My sister wasn’t a match for a bone marrow transplant so a ‘wait and see’ approach was adopted. Luckily my counts began to slowly improve and no further treatment was needed.

With the unflappable support of my family and friends I managed to complete my sociology degree at Reading University. My wonderful husband and I live a lovely life in North London with our chocolate Labrador Bungle and the latest addition to our family, our beautiful baby boy, Wilbur. Motherhood feels especially miraculous for me. During my treatment I was misinformed about my fertility being affected and concerns had been raised about pregnancy causing me to relapse. We certainly weren’t put off trying for a family but thoughts of my aplastic anaemia returning were always in the back of our minds. Under the watchful eye of the team at Addenbrooke’s I had a trouble-free pregnancy and labour, it was an unbelievable feeling to walk out of the same hospital with Wilbur, that had treated me 11 years previously.

The elation continues as my platelet count is now at a record high of 169!! A figure I never thought would be possible for me.

You only have to read through the List of Contacts to be reminded of the bravery shown by every patient and family member affected by aplastic anaemia. I’m always completely overwhelmed and inspired by everyone’s experiences. Looking back I feel my own story serves as a constant reminder of how a positive outlook and a zest for life can spur you on to lead a life you once thought might not be possible. I’m indebted to everyone who has made that possible for me.

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Jo with Wilbur