Sleep and you could die
When I started bleeding, I couldn’t make it stop. And only one man could help me
Natalia Slazak, 31, High Wycombe
Slamming the snooze button on my alarm, I sat up in bed, still feeling groggy.
Just hours earlier, I’d arrived home after a long flight from Mexico – where I’d been on holiday with my friend Jade, 29.
I felt shattered as I set about getting ready for work.
As I pulled on a pair of trousers, a small purple bruise on my leg caught my eye.
Then I spotted a few more.
I went over to my partner, and woke him up.
‘Look at these,’ I said, pointing.
He trained his sleepy eyes on the splotches.
‘They’re just bruises,’ he grumbled. ‘Aren’t you going to be late for work?’ He was right... I finished getting ready, grabbed my handbag before dashing out the door.
But I couldn’t get my mind off those bruises. Where have they come from?
I didn’t remember bumping into anything.
Over the next month, more mysterious shadows appeared.
One evening, joking with my partner in the kitchen, I tapped my nose with my finger.
Suddenly, my nose started pouring with blood.
I sat down on the sofa, clutching countless tissues to my face trying to stem the waterfall of blood. Good thing I wasn’t squeamish…
It finally stopped five hours later, at 2am.
It wouldn’t be the last time... As soon as I started bleeding I just couldn’t make it stop.
If I nicked a cuticle, I bled for hours.
Even my periods got heavier.
‘Maybe you should go to the GP,’ my mum Dorota, 50, suggested.
So in August 2017, I did just that.
I was prescribed norethisterone tablets to help stop the bleeds.
But I continued to feel tired, and lost two stone in one month.
In September 2017, I was in the locker room in the store where I worked, gossiping with my colleagues from the make-up counter when I felt a wave of tiredness.
We were heading back to the shop floor when, suddenly, everything went black. I’d fainted. Coming to, I rushed to see the in-store nurse.
‘I think you should go to the doctor’s,’ the nurse warned when she saw my pale face.
I took the afternoon off, went to the GP.
He did some blood tests, told me I’d get the results in a few days.
But I’d just got home and put the kettle on when the phone began to ring.
It was the GP surgery.
‘We’ve got the results of your blood test,’ a voice on the line said. ‘Wow, that was fast,’ I joked. ‘You need to go to the hospital now,’ came the reply.
I learnt the haemoglobin in my blood was so low, my heart was having to work extra hard to pump it around my body.
They were concerned that if I fell asleep, I might not wake up.
I was stunned. Did they have the right person’s results in front of them?
Mum drove me straight to Stoke Mandeville Hospital, where I was admitted for tests.
The doctors buzzed around me, trying to work out what was wrong. They did dozens of blood tests, and a bone-marrow test. I was then given a blood transfusion to replace all the blood I’d been losing. I felt better
Suddenly, everything went black. I’d fainted
After just one day in hospital, I begged them to let me go home.
Reluctantly, they agreed.
The following week I went back for my test results.
With my partner and Mum at work, my best friend Lydia, 26, came along for support.
‘Whatever it is, we’ll face it together,’ she reassured me.
Thank goodness she was there.
Minutes later, my world was turned upside down as the doctor explained I had aplastic anaemia.
It is a rare bone-marrow disease, which can be life threatening. I spent most of October in and out the hospital with one infection after another. My immune system was so weak, I had to live in a bubble.
I was signed off work, couldn’t eat out and had to wash fruit and vegetables in soap and water.
I had three blood transfusions a week to keep me alive.
Then, at the end of October 2017, I was told that without a stem cell transplant I would die. ‘I can’t believe it!’ I cried. Months earlier, I’d been a normal woman going about my life. Now I was facing death. But there was some hope. There was a chance that my little brother, Lukas, 29, would make a suitable donor... But he lived in Poland! ‘I’m flying over,’ he said when my mum called. Lukas was tested – and he was a match. On 29 January 2018, I was admitted to hospital to start treatment. Not a moment too soon, as I’d started to develop blood blisters on my gums. I underwent a week of intensive chemotherapy, which would prepare my immune system for the transplant. I was told to shave my head in advance. But I refused. This disease had taken my job, my health... I was determined to keep my hair, at least! On 5 February, I sat on the edge of my brother’s hospital bed as he donated stem cells. They would help my body produce its own healthy blood cells. ‘The things I do for you,’ he joked. ‘When this is all over, I’ll treat you to a Nando’s,’ I laughed. But really, there were no words to express my gratitude. After the transplant, I stayed in hospital for a couple more weeks. I was full of beans, despite the doctor’s warning that the treatment might not work. Luckily, the transplant took, and my haemoglobin and platelet levels returned to normal. I’m now back at work – though the fight isn’t over... The condition can still come back, so I go to checkups every six weeks. But I refuse to let this illness rule my life. Thanks to my generous brother Lukas, I’m healthy right now – so I’ve got to live life to the full.
‘When this is all over, I’ll treat you to a Nando’s!’
Mysterious y bruises
Perfect match: Lovely Lukas