Hi, my name is Lauren. I’m 35 years old, I live in beautiful Queensland, Australia. I am a registered nurse, a wife, a mother, oh and I’m a AA survivor.

The start of my aplastic anaemia journey

I was diagnosed with very severe aplastic anaemia in April 2013. At the time I had a 14 month old baby girl. I had only just returned to work after taking 12 months’ worth of maternity leave. I first noticed some bruising to my legs a few weeks before I was diagnosed. Nothing severe just a few here and there. In the back of my mind was a quiet voice telling me to have that checked, but it was drowned out by a loud (typical nurse) voice telling me I was young and healthy, I had a robust immune system, I rarely got sick.  Then, one day after work, I noticed a large, very black bruise on my hip. It was a bruise I could no longer ignore…

I was hospitalised initially with what they thought was Idiopathic thrombocytopaenia (ITP).  My blood counts dropped steadily, I spent a few daunting days not knowing what I was facing. When my haematologist told me I had Aplastic Anaemia, I had very little knowledge of what it was and how it was treated. It sounds pretty benign right? I started to research it, an experience I found extremely overwhelming.

I was used to reading medical articles and journals about conditions other people had. Reading mortality and morbidity rates about AA felt like I was giving myself a death sentence.

Despite all that I remained pretty positive. I had discussions with my haematologist and a fertility specialist about the possibility of future pregnancies. I felt the harvesting of my eggs whilst my platelets were so low was too risky and made peace with the fact I might not be able to fall pregnant again. I already had a beautiful little girl, I needed to get through this first and foremost, I needed to stick around for her sake. My 3 siblings were HLA tested, but unfortunately, they weren’t a match for a bone marrow transplant. They continued to search for a match on the registry, whilst I underwent a course of horse ATG.   I was fortunate enough to endure that with only minor complications. I was discharged from hospital, but returned 3 times a week for platelet and blood transfusions, after 4 weeks or so my counts started to improve. My daughter learnt to walk in the oncology outpatients department. Things were looking up!

We wanted another baby

I continued to improve, I slowly weaned off my cyclosporin. I was back at work, things had returned to normal.  After a few years my husband and I discussed the possibility of trying for another baby.  The research out there was limited. The studies were small, they were old and the control groups were tiny.  The data wasn’t really all that reliable. Could I go through with a pregnancy and risk the very real possibility of relapse? What was the likelihood of relapse? Up to 25% according to some research. Would I even be able to fall pregnant after all the treatment I’d had?

In 2015 We bit the bullet, we tried, we fell pregnant straight away! I was over the moon but I was terrified. This was really happening!  Now, I’m a pretty laid back person, but I found myself super anxious. I was hypervigilant about every little niggle, every time I felt unwell (a lot in the first trimester) I second guessed my decision. As the morning sickness subsided, so too did my anxiety  and again I sailed through another pregnancy without complication. The thoughts of relapse were still there, but as the weeks went by, I was comforted by the fact that my baby was getting stronger and could survive on the outside if I had to deliver early.

My due date was looming, the anxiety crept back in again, helped by the fact that my platelets were dropping. I was told to expect them to drop, that it is a normal physiological change that happens in pregnancy. That still didn’t put me 100% at ease. My platelet count had recovered but only into the very lowest of what is considered the ‘normal’ range. I didn’t have a lot of platelets to ‘play with’ so to speak.  I went into labour without really knowing what my platelet count was. It had been 89 (109/L,) the last time it was checked, a week or so prior… We headed up to the hospital, I had no idea how quickly my labour was progressing. Despite living only 5 minutes away, we barely made it! My second daughter was born 15 minutes after we arrived there, without anytime for any further blood tests. I’ve waited longer than 90 minutes for a scheduled appointment, but apparently you can birth an entire baby in that time. Lucky for me, things went even better than expected.

The blood tests I had after I delivered showed my platelets steadily increasing. They kept getting higher, right back into that middle of range ‘normal’. The place we all want out counts to be, and they have remained there ever since! 

I feel like one of the luckiest people out there. I am here. I am happy. I am healthy. I am Fantastic, Not Aplastic.

Blog by Lauren