|Beth Ann's Story|
Pure Red Cell Aplasia
The entire family is grateful that Beth Ann has the blood she needs to live comfortably with her condition.
1992 was a stressful year for Beth Ann O’Hara of Bedford, New Hampshire so it wasn’t surprising when she started feeling fatigued. When fatigue turned to complete exhaustion, however, she knew something was wrong. Beth Ann made a date to visit her doctor, who ordered routine blood work. When the results of the blood tests did not reveal routine results but, instead, a seriously low hemoglobin level, more work had to be done.
Finally, a diagnosis was confirmed and Beth Ann learned she had Pure Red Cell Aplasia, a very rare autoimmune disorder in which the body’s immune system kills off the red blood cells being produced in the bone marrow.
The diagnosis launched a stay at Brigham and Women’s Medical Center in Boston and a series of efforts to bring this condition into remission, including chemotherapy, steroids and surgeries. These endeavors paid off in a 2 ½ year remission but the Aplasia came back with a vengeance in 2000. The combination of drugs played havoc on Beth Ann’s digestive system, resulting in Crohn’s Disease and the need for an ileostomy.
By her own account, Beth Ann has been receiving 2 units of red blood cells every 3 weeks for the past 15 years, minus the short period of remission, at the Elliot Hospital in Manchester as well as transfusions during her surgeries – well over 400 units in total. The regular blood transfusions are essentially her only treatment now.
Doctors worry that further attempts to achieve another remission would upset her body’s delicate balance and the regular transfusions seem to be working to restore a sense of normalcy for Beth Ann. “While I don’t have a lot of extra energy, I do what I can and feel that I lead a normal life.” That normal life includes sitting on the advisory board of her community theater company and caring for her large extended family.
“I owe my life to the kindness of strangers,” Beth Ann acknowledges gratefully. “I feel that I’m now a healthy person whose job just happens to be to take care of a patient named Beth Ann.”
Red Cross blood donors help patients just like Beth Ann in cities and towns throughout New England and across the United States. Please….give blood.