Sleep and you could die

When I started bleed­ing, I couldn’t make it stop. And only one man could help me

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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

al­most in­stantly.

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

Blis­tered gums

Per­fect match: Lovely Lukas

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