Laura Hamilton opens up about her ITP diagnosis in 2021
A woman has spoken of her fears after what she thought was a harmless rash turned out to be a sign of a serious health condition. Juliana Pascarella, 21, from Virginia, USA, noticed tiny red dots appear all over her body in April 2020.
She ignored them at first, but said that within 15 minutes her health rapidly worsened as bruises appeared and she suffered a nosebleed which would not stop. A scab also developed on her bottom lip.
Ms Pascarella was taken to hospital where she was diagnosed with the rare blood condition disorderidiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP).
She said: “Being a young female entering her 20s, I realised life is not guaranteed and I have to make the most of what the universe has provided me.
“I must take care of my body and look out for myself, as well as others.”
Juliana Pascarella from Virginia in the USA has the serious blood disorder ITP
A scab on Ms Pascarella’s bottom lip
“This experience was life-changing, and although it was one of the worst, I’m glad to have a set diagnosis.
“I can be prepared for future episodes and help others understand a condition I once knew nothing about.”
ITP is characterised by an abnormal reduction in the number of platelets in the blood. It occurs when the immune system attacks a person’s platelets.
It can lead a sufferer to bruise easily, experience bleeding gums and internal bleeding.
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A rash covers Ms Pascarella’s legs
For Ms Pascarella, the risk was severe as she was told the condition could lead to her developing a life-threatening brain haemorrhage.
Ms Pascarella told NeedToKnow.online: “Knowing that my brain could haemorrhage at any second and I could lose my life really showed me a new perspective on life.”
She explained how a hematologist told her the platelets in her blood were at a low of 3,000.
The student added: “After running more tests, he said I was lucky I wasn’t internally bleeding, and if I hadn’t come to the hospital there’s a high chance I couldn’t be saved.
“I felt overwhelmed and scared.”
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Bruises on Ms Pascarella’s legs
She went on to describe the loneliness she felt as her parents were not allowed to visit her in the hospital.
Ms Pascarella said: “I didn’t see anyone until I was discharged so it was very lonely.
“However, hearing the news about what could have happened to me, almost made me feel a bit more comfortable.
“Comfortable knowing why the dots appeared, knowing why I’ve been feeling ill and weak lately, and that I finally have answers.”
Before she was diagnosed with ITP, Ms Pascarella was unaware of the disorder.
She said: “Living with ITP can be really scary. Medically, the ‘I’ in ITP stands for idiopathic – meaning doctors are unaware of the cause of the condition.
“This makes it a bit harder to understand why my body was not creating enough platelets and makes it even harder to prevent another episode.”
She explained how her own experience of ITP began with feeling not just tired, but fatigued and sick.
Ms Pascarella in hospital
Her body also felt heavy, her vision was blurred, she experienced nausea and dizzy spells.
Months before medics diagnosed ITP, her skin became paler and she experienced a loss of appetite.
Ms Pascarella said: “Not knowing the reason behind any of it can be frightening during my everyday life, knowing that within just an hour, my platelets could drop severely, with no answers as to why.
“I am generally OK, other than the constant fear that just because I may feel tired or sick one day, I might be at risk of another episode.”
“It’s very confusing and a back-and-forth fear, wondering when or if it will spontaneously happen to me again.”
At hospital, Ms Pascarella underwent a series of blood tests. When doctors discovered her platelets were low, she had an immediate blood transfusion. Without the procedure, her brain could have haemorrhaged.
She said: “The nights of IVIG transfusion treatments were the worst. It is a therapy treatment for patients with antibody deficiencies, but I knew it was the only thing that was helping me.
“Having someone else’s plasma enter into my body over three separate seven-hour periods was a lot to take in.
“Completely replacing my own blood with someone else’s was something I just couldn’t wrap my head around and the process was consistently nauseating and painful.”
Ms Pascarella’s story went viral on TikTok as she shared her experience of ITP in a video which has more than two million views and 200,000 likes.
She encouraged more people to speak up about their health if they feel something is wrong rather than ignoring the signs.