Teen wrestles autoimmune disorder
With his body sporting huge bruises and coughing up blood, John Phillips was admitted to the hospital with critically low platelet levels.
His fatigue over the last few months now made sense but all this made for a miserable seventeenth birthday! John had the normal expectations and dreams of a young man finishing his junior year of high school but all that came to a screeching halt with a diagnosis of Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP). ITP is an autoimmune disorder that can lead to easy or excessive bruising and bleeding because the body destroys its platelets. Platelets are essential for blood clotting which explained the many bruises dotting John’s body.
Many patients diagnosed with ITP receive immunoglobulin to disrupt the destructive autoimmune response that characterizes the disorder; and boost normal blood production and the immune system. It can take hundreds to thousands of plasma donors to create just one dose of the lifesaving medicine, intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG), that John received.
While John hoped to be on the mat as part of the varsity wrestling team, he now helps manage the team. Wrestling can be risky; even a minor injury for John can create serious medical consequences due to ITP.
“It’s been really hard and definitely lonely at times,” says John, “to have my senior year be so changed due to ITP and the treatment I’ve received. But I am thankful to blood donors and encourage people at my school to donate blood at the school blood drive, or donate platelets and plasma at local BloodSource donor centers. If every student and staff member at my high school donated plasma, it wouldn't even amount to two bottles of my lifesaving medication. Every drop counts.”
ITP hasn’t kept John from studying hard and dreaming big. He hopes to become a hematologist, a doctor who specializes in blood matters, so that he can help others like him find the right treatment. John and his mom, Dawn, have started a local support group for those with ITP; you can also find him on Facebook encouraging others, at the school blood drive educating students or in the community thanking those who give blood.
When not in school or managing the wresting team, John enjoys hanging out with his younger brother, David, and playing guitar. For now, he monitors his blood counts carefully and looks forward to a healthy future, cheering blood donors along the way!
Yes, you do save lives.