Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia
For Lucy Bogue of Colchester, Vermont, using a blood pressure cuff at Brooks Pharmacy, now Rite Aid, led to the discovery of a significant health issue – but one not related to blood pressure.
Using the cuff on that October day in 2005 was painful and caused considerable bruising. This uncommon occurrence and an unusual amount of fatigue were enough to prompt a call to her physician, who ordered blood to be drawn. The results led to Lucy’s admission to the hospital that day for what turned out to be a month long stay.
Lucy’s diagnosis was Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia, or APL, a rare subtype of Acute Myelogenous Leukemia. Leukemia is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. This particular type of leukemia is distinguished by genetic mutations which prevent granulocytes, a type of white blood cell, from fully maturing. The APL also initially caused another serious medical condition known as Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation, or DIC, resulting in decreased platelet count and the increased possibility of hemorrhaging.
According to Lucy, one of the first things to happen at the hospital was the administration of packed red blood cell and platelet transfusions – lots of them. She also received cryoprecipitate, a plasma product used for severe bleeding. Lucy continued to receive blood transfusions throughout her hospital stay.
Chemotherapy began within three days, combined with antibiotics and anti-nausea medication. This type of leukemia is also very responsive to a drug called ATRA, a Vitamin A derivative which causes the immature granulocytes to develop more fully.
The good news is that Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia is very treatable; however, the treatment involved two more rounds of infusion chemotherapy after discharge from the hospital and additional chemo orally for a full year.
Thankfully, bone marrow biopsies have shown Lucy to be in remission since her discharge and she is grateful for the many blood and platelet donors who have helped in her recovery. “I would not have lived without the blood products I received. They were key to my survival.” In total, Lucy received eight units of red blood cells, four packs of platelets and two doses of cryoprecipitate.
This recovery has allowed Lucy to continue with her career after close to a year’s absence. Formerly a registered nurse, she received a Master’s degree in Education with a specialty in teaching gifted students. She currently directs the Green Mountain Center for Gifted Education, a non-profit whose mission is affirming, educating, and support Vermont’s gifted students and their families. Recovery has also meant getting back to a normal family life with husband Dave, 21-year-old daughter Emily and 18-year-old son Max.
At one point during her treatment, she learned to her surprise that her brother-in-law was a dedicated platelet donor at the Burlington Red Cross Donor Center. Lucy wants to shed a little light on all the Silent Heroes who help save lives every day with their gift of time.
“I want to say how much I appreciate those who give blood. It really does make a difference in peoples’ lives. I wouldn’t be here today without it.”
Red Cross blood donors help patients just like Lucy in cities and towns throughout New England and across the United States. Please….give blood.