by Jenna Fox and Andrew Sykes; Farnsley Middle School (Louisville, KY)
When I was only 8, my grandma’s life changed due to chronic idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, or ITP. When she was told she had developed the disease, it really scared her. They took out her spleen, because this is what they would normally do. This should have cured everything and she should have been fine in a matter of days, but this wasn’t true for her. Unfortunately, my grandma’s ITP will never go away.

These marks are a sign of ITP. Credit: National Institutes of Health.

Chronic ITP is a very dangerous disease, because it causes your platelet count to drop dramatically. This will cause your blood to be unable to clot. This can even be fatal because when your blood clots, that means that proteins in the plasma and platelets work to pack together so that you will stop bleeding. If your blood can’t clot, then you can’t stop bleeding. This can cause you to bleed out if you have an injury that involves a cut or bleeding. Every time she gets a cut, because hers is chronic, she has to rush to the hospital to get her platelet count back to normal.

According to Harvard Health Publications, antibodies produced by your immune system attach themselves to the platelets, marking the platelets for destruction. The spleen, a part of the body that helps fight disease, notices the antibodies and mistakenly removes the platelets from your body. The result of this case of mistaken identity is a lower number of circulating platelets than is normal.

There are many symptoms of ITP, including the following: Excessive or easily bruises, prolonged bleeding from cuts, random nose bleeds, and bleeding gums, especially after dental work

My grandma, Nancy James, says that ITP affects her whole routine throughout her daily life. It limits a lot of the things she can do because it may affect her ITP.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “The biggest risk associated with idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura is bleeding, especially bleeding into the brain (intracranial hemorrhage) which can be fatal.”

When I asked what James does to treat it, she said, “I use homeopathy, which is a different kind of medicine made from plants found in nature. Lots of people are skeptic that it works, but for me it has made my ITP so much more bearable.”   

The cause of chronic ITP isn’t known. This is why it as referred as idiopathic, which means “of unknown cause.” However, we have a theory. Both my grandma and Mr. Buerger, my teacher’s husband, have worked with harsh chemicals. My grandma refurnished the hard wood floors with chemicals and Mr. Buerger became coated with pesticides when he was spraying a research test plot. Soon after, he developed ITP and was in the hospital for a month. We think this may play a role in their acquiring ITP.

“I am 99% sure that the pesticides were the cause of my developing ITP, says Mr. Buerger. “I am very lucky that taking out my spleen cured my ITP. I have been healthy ever since.”

Jenna Fox and Andrew Sykes






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