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Over fifty bruises. That may sound like an exaggeration, but it was a reality for my seven-year-old self. I glanced over from playing with my favorite Barbie, only to see my parents surrounding the computer, frantically searching to find an answer to what was wrong with me. They looked at me with a concern in their eyes that I had never seen before. I insisted I felt fine, but my parents assumed the worst and scheduled a doctor's appointment anyway.
The next days were filled with worries. My parents covered me up in long sleeves and pants, to conceal my bruised body. An email was sent to my teacher to inform her of the bruises and that I would be missing school for a doctor’s appointment.
The day came, my dad missed work, and my parents both took me to the doctor’s office where they expressed their concerns about me. The doctor sent me to the lab, where they would take my blood. Salty tears dripped down my face, with fear for the unknown. Of course, the blood draw wasn’t as bad as I thought, but it still hurt. My parent’s rewarded me with brunch at Leo’s Coney Island. I decided on pancakes and we talked about the upcoming weekend in an effort to take our mind off our worries. My parents let me stay home from school for the rest of the day.
I went back to school on Monday and my daily routine seemed back to normal, although the bruises were still there. Some had healed, but new ones had formed. I wasn’t worried though. I felt just fine.
I realized everything was not fine when my mom poked her head into my bedroom later that day and asked,
“Remember when you got your blood drawn? That wasn’t too bad was it?”
I responded with a gentle “No.”
My mom smiles, “Good, because there is another doctor who wants to see your blood, so you have to go to Beaumont and get your blood drawn again.” I frowned, but I stayed positive because I knew I could handle it.
A few days later I missed school again. My mom drove me down to the Rose Cancer Center at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak. I entered a waiting room, filled with toys and kids, all waiting to see a doctor.
“Hannah?” The nurse took me down a hall and into a room. I got my blood drawn, and then was sent to another room to wait.
That is when a doctor called my mom and me into a large meeting room. The three of us sat at a long table. The doctor explained to us that I had Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura or ITP. According to the doctor, an average person has platelet levels of 150,000- 400,000, while I had below 10,000. My immune system was attacking its own platelets, causing excessive bleeding and bruising. I have always been active, but with this disorder, I was told I needed to quit gymnastics, I couldn’t participate in gym class, and I wasn’t allowed to ride my bike anymore because I was at risk for a serious injury. With ITP, a small injury can become very serious, as my bruises had indicated.
After that, I went to Beaumont once a week. Each time I would have the same routine. First I played in the waiting room, then I got my blood drawn, and then I would go in the room and wait. A doctor would discuss my platelet counts, and we always talked about what the next step was. One day, the doctor gave my mom two options: I could either stay at the hospital, get an IV and be monitored all night, or I could come back early the next day, and receive an IV and stay all day. My mom decided that we would come in early the next day.
My mom woke me up very early the next day, and I got in the car. The car ride seemed to last forever. We arrived around 5:45 am and I first go to the bathroom and then head to the waiting room. Thousands of butterflies filled my stomach. To pass the time, I played a game of Uno with my mom. After about an hour had passed, we were called into a room with a hospital bed. The nurse asked me what flavor suckers I like because I would be able to taste the IV. I responded with “cherry”. She came back with a handful of cherry suckers, and some starbursts for me to have during the IV. I put on a movie and the nurse began. She taped my arm down to the side of the chair.
It was time. My heart was racing, my arms were shaking. I can’t help but squeeze my eyes shut. All that’s left to do is wait. Wait for the pain. All of the sudden I feel a poke at my arm. I squint my eyes open to see the nurse with the needle still in her hand. She missed and had to try again. The second time hurt a little more, but it was in. She taped the IV down and the waiting time begins. I was told that the IV would be in for about five hours. I watch The Lion King. I started to get a funny taste in my mouth from the IV, so I had one of my suckers. I watched The Lion King and relaxed. About four hours pass by. My arm started to hurt very bad, but the nurse was on a lunch break.
After about twenty minutes of intense pain, the nurse came back, I told her about the pain, and she looked at my arm. She said that my IV was leaking and that it needed to be taken out early. They remove it, and the pain is over. After monitoring me for a few more hours, I would finally be able to leave.
Days later I returned to the hospital. My platelet levels had gone up to about 90,000, which was very good. I continued to go to weekly appointments. The numbers began to fall. I dropped to 80,000, then 70,000. Eventually, on its own, my platelet count started to rise again. Week after week my platelet count rose. Finally, after about four months of hospital visits and stress, I hit 150,000 platelets, a normal amount. My bruises had mostly faded. My mind overflowed with all of the possibilities of things I could now do. I could begin gymnastics lessons, gym class and bike riding again. I was ecstatic; Being able to do regular kid stuff again meant so much more to me. I never complained about gymnastics class again, because I learned how easy it could be taken away from me. Games in gym class that I once dreaded, like dodgeball, I was thrilled to take part in. I spent hours riding my bike and refused to come in because I was so lucky to be able to ride my bike, knowing that there were other kids out there who were not as lucky as me.
My experience with ITP taught me a lot and I’m grateful I went through it when I was young and unaware of how serious it could have been. Those months of being sick made me appreciate finally being healthy. Today, I am on the varsity cheer team. Whenever I have a bad day and want to complain about cheer practice, I remember this experience, and how lucky I am to be able to participate in sports.
I also learned the importance of perseverance, bravery, and positivity, in times of crisis. I now can handle anything life brings me. About a year ago, my sister and I were on the way to school, and she slid on ice while driving, and spun out of control into a stone pillar. She was very panicked, but I remained calm and positive to be a source of comfort to my sister. There have been countless other times when a crisis has struck my family or friends, and I have had to step up and be strong, positive and brave for the sake of others. For as long as I can remember, I have always had the feeling as though I can handle anything thrown my way, but I truly believe it was my experience with ITP that has brought me there, so all I have to say is thank you ITP. If I could go back and time and get rid of you, I wouldn’t want to because I wouldn’t trade the lessons you taught me for the world.