When Colleen Reesor planned her river cruise through the Amazon last October, she never anticipated that a few months later she would receive care for a mysterious and deadly blood disorder.
A retired teacher who taught elementary school for more than 30 years, Colleen knew to plan and prepare ahead of time to ensure a safe and healthy vacation. She called her family doctor, who cautioned her to get immunized for Malaria and Yellow Fever. Colleen did everything that was suggested to prevent her from getting sick.
Months later, after her vacation through South America and the Caribbean in January this year, Colleen began to feel ill. She started to experience the occasional bloody nose, but thought nothing of it. Her irritation turned to worry when she noticed large bruises on her torso, legs and back, and when her tongue began to swell and turn black.
If it wasn’t for her sister-in-law, a retired registered nurse for more than 35 years in Walkerton, who told her to go to The Scarborough Hospital (TSH) right away, Colleen would be dead. On January 25, Colleen arrived at TSH’s Emergency Department (ED) and was quickly assessed.
“The nurses and doctors came in wearing yellow suits,” says Colleen. “They thought I caught something in the Amazon and that I might be contagious.”
After several tests to determine what was wrong with her, the doctors discovered that Colleen’s blood platelets were dangerously low and the cause was unknown.
“The doctors had many theories as to what might be causing the blood disorder,” says Colleen. “They ruled out a lot of things, but weren’t sure what was causing the issue.”
Over the next couple of weeks, Colleen received 14 blood transfusions to flush her veins of the unknown element attacking her red blood cells.
Fortunately, because of the exceptional care she received at TSH, Colleen’s blood count returned to normal and her symptoms alleviated. The cause for Colleen’s low blood platelet count is still officially unknown; however, the doctors that treated her suspect it was a reaction to the anti-malaria drug she took before her trip. Because of this possible, but rare link between her illness and the anti-malaria drug, Colleen is now being monitored by the pharmaceutical company that produces the tablet.
Colleen knows she is lucky to be alive and credits the many dedicated TSH doctors and staff that helped save her life.
“Staff at The Scarborough Hospital were wonderful. I want to especially thank Dr. Krieger, Dr. Lovinsky and the many nurses that took care of me.” She continues in an excited voice. “I’m feeling much better and my husband and I are already planning our next trip.”