Immune System and Platelets

My doctor made tsk-tsk noises as he read my comprehensive blood count (CBC). He saw me looking at him and explained that my platelet count was low. Mine was 60,000 when 140,000 to 160,000 is the healthy range. “You’re a little low.” he said dryly. 

“Uh huh, so what does that mean?” I asked him.

“Platelets are the component and blood that assist clotting. When your platelets are way low, you can hemmorage internally, cuts won’t stop bleeding, stuff like that.”

“It sounds like hemophelia.” I said.

“Well, it is like hemophelia. In this case it’s call thrombocytopenia. It’s a malfunction of the bone marrow that causes it and its one of the things that manifest in a damaged immune system.” said the doctor.

“What can I d about it? I assume there’s some kind of corrective action, right?”

“We might give you a transfusion. There’s also some drugs you can take, but they aren’t really that effective. But if there was a full court press, I suppose we would try all kinds of things.” he said.

“Like what?”

“Well, we could give you Neumega, but with your tendency for plapitations that’s not a great idea. I mention it only because I’m answering your question. Then there’s diet changes; eating leafy vegetables, tomatoes, tuna, salmon, like that. And you would cut down on cafeinated drinks, sugars, take teaspoons of sesame oil. You would avoid aspirin and ibuprofen –NSAIDs, and get at least eight hours of sleep each night and during the day engage in cardio exercises.” 

“That sounds like the prescriptions for everything.” I said.

“That’s because it is. On the whole, doing all of those things might elevate platelets in a healthy person. Maybe take their platelets from 155 up to 160. For someone with Multiple Myeloma, not so much. Your problem isn’t diet, it’s cancer that’s targeted your bone marrow. So to raise your platelet count we can either give you a transfusion –or cure the cancer.” said the doctor. He smiled to let me know he was being funny.

“You’re being funny.” I said.

He harrumphed. “Well, that’s really the size of it. I wish we could cure the cancer, but we can’t do that yet. I think the day will come, but not yet.”

My wife spoke up. “My husband drinks three or four sodas every day and he’s been having trouble sleeping. He sleeps a lot lately, but it’s all in short bursts.”

The doctor nodded. “Yeah, we’re tracking that. Platelets aren’t responsible for his sleep. At least largely. And in is case I don’t think the pop is hurting him. It may be responsible for at least some of the energy he has. From what I understand, it’s pain that wakes him. Is that right?” he asked, looking at me.

“For the most part.” I answered. I thought about my wife’s snoring, the seranading of the family cats, the trainyard nearby that supplied a cacauphony of sounds but failed to mention them. It was indeed pain that wakened me most often. “The weather is a discouragement as well.” I commented. “The things I enjoy doing are outside and with the skies gray and the chilly –make that freezing– temperatures, well, so much for outside.”

“Your easily chilled?” asked the doctor.

“He is,” said my wife. “His circulation is lousy.”

“I get cold easily.” I added.

“That’s not surprising with you history of IV therapy attempts. Chemotherapy can be pretty hard on the circulation system.” said my doctor. “But back to the platelets, we’re probably going to have to consider a transfusion for you if we procede with the intercostal block. I doubt an anathesiologist would want to touch you with your platelets so low. They get antsy about stuff like that.”

“So, should I start giving blood and having them collect my platelets up?” I asked.

“No, you don’t have to do that. Platelets are platelets.” said my wife. The doctor and I looked at her. “I’m a five gallon donor at the blood banks. I’ve given blood for plasma, platelets, and whole blood. I have my five gallon certificate but I’ve actually given more. Some of the time they took part of it and returned the rest. The five gallons is whole blood donation.” 

“You give that all at once, did you?” asked my doctor, grinning. My wife made a rude noise in response. “Anyway, we’ll have to keep an eye on this. I’d hate to see these numbers get any lower. Are you getting bloody noses?” he asked.

“Yeah, actually I am.” I replied.

“Figures. Yeah, I’ll make a note to keep and eye on these levels. If they drop much more I think we should give you some blood to perk you up a little.” he said.

“Great. I’ve become a vampire.” I answered.

“Actually, that’s true. Or will be if we have to start giving you other people’s blood. At least you won’t be drinking it.”

“Gross.” I said.