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The next day, she was bleeding internally and was rushed to the emergency room of her local hospital. “You could see the urgency in the doctors’ faces, who immediately called in an oncologist. Luckily, I got the right guy, and he quickly understood that he couldn’t treat me.” Judi’s CBC [complete blood count] was virtually zero – her white blood cells and platelets were zero, and her hemoglobin was under five. The diagnosis was very severe aplastic anemia, and she was instructed to head to NIH as soon as possible. The hospital sent her home with two ominous-looking bags: One was filled with antibiotics, the other with thick face masks.
Disease Related Links
“I didn't think about dying. All I could think of was who’s going to take care of my kids.” She was blessed to have a DNA match with her sister, but NIH had no clinical trials on bone marrow transplantation at that time. If she chose to go that route, Dr. Young told her, she would have to return to Florida and have the procedure done locally. “I wasn’t going to do that. I was going to stay at NIH and Dr. Young was going to be my doctor.”
Treatment Related Links
Her online research was how Judi found out about AAMDSIF, and she’s been a part of the Foundation’s family of volunteers ever since the year after she got well. During the difficult treatment phase at NIH in Bethesda, Maryland, Judi was alone and far from home. Hard as that was, it made her realize how much she wanted to help other aplastic anemia patients whose lives had been suddenly turned upside down like just like hers. In the process, she discovered she had a natural talent for educating people to help them make their own informed decisions. Having travelled the same path, she was able to explain the frightening medical jargon in simple terms and with a great deal of empathy.
Education Related Links
To extend her reach, Judi also started her own closed Facebook page for aplastic anemia patients, which now has over 700 participants. She also encourages patients and families to support AAMDSIF. “I’ve had people selling t-shirts, having barbecues, organizing walks and runs, and holding contests between police departments and fire departments to see who could raise the most money.”
Judi's dedication to helping other aplastic anemia patients has become her mission. "My life is about what I can do for somebody else, and that has changed me profoundly."