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2,000 Transfusions Save Mom’s Life
By Jeffery Diffy, ASBP Blood Donor Recruiter, North Chicago, Ill.
Left photo: Back row: Erin Bennett and Robert Bennett. Middle row: Hadyn Bennett. Front row: Seaman Recruit Haley Bennett and Wyatt Bennett. Erin Bennett required 2,000 transfusions of blood products to treat a serious illness. She has returned to health and thanks every blood donor for their gift. Right photo: Seaman Recruit Erin Bennett donated blood with the Armed Services Blood Program while attending boot camp and looks forward to serving in the U.S. Navy.
Navy Mom Erin Bennett is a survivor of an illness that could have caused her demise. But after an incredible tale of courage and struggle, she was able to see her daughter graduate from boot camp, Feb. 10. Her courageous path to renewed health began eight years ago.
In February 2009, Bennett said she felt as if she was coming down with the flu. She went to an urgent care clinic and given a prescription for the flu and two medications for her chronic asthma and bronchitis.
After three weeks of the flu-like symptoms, the urgent care clinic sent her to the hospital’s emergency room because she was presenting with strange bruising and dark urine.
“The doctors at the hospital immediately admitted me to the hospital because my platelet count was extremely low,” Bennett said. “At first, the doctors thought that I was in liver failure.”
After a series of tests to determine the problem, doctors ruled out her gallbladder, leukemia and breast cancer.
Doctors ruled out liver failure, but then thought that her gallbladder was causing the problem. They removed her gallbladder, but still, Bennett was ill.
“They thought next that I could possibly have leukemia,” she said. “They called an oncologist who tested my bone marrow and ruled out leukemia. Then they thought breast cancer, but the mammogram came back clean.”
Doctors then scheduled her to have her spleen removed. But on the morning of her scheduled surgery, her oncologist came rushing through the door.
“He said that he thought that he had it figured out,” Bennett said. “He remembered reading about a rare blood disorder that caused microscopic blood clots to form in small blood vessels throughout the body, causing low platelet count, and petechiae on the skin.”
This disorder is something known as TTP, or thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, “these clots can limit or block the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the body's organs, such as the brain, kidneys, and heart. As a result, serious health problems can develop.”
“My spleen removal surgery was cancelled and a team came that afternoon to perform my first plasmapheresis,” Bennett said. “It was explained to me that the plasmapheresis would filter my blood’s plasma out and they would replace it with donated plasma to help remove the antibodies in my blood that were causing the TTP.”
In Bennett’s case, the TTP was now causing liver and kidney failure. Her heart was enlarged and she was suffering from severe confusion from the lack of oxygen-rich blood to her brain.
“My major systems had begun shutting down and my platelet count was at a four when they began plasmapheresis,” she said.
Bennett received 28 units of fresh frozen plasma for the next 23 weeks, three times a week.
“Each day that I received the treatment, they would test my blood and get my platelet count before starting.” She said. “Each week, my platelet count was on the rise, and the treatment was working. I was not able to stop the treatment until my platelet count reached a normal level and remained there.”
Her daughter, Seaman Recruit Haley Bennett, donated blood Jan. 27 in Great Lakes, Ill.
“It was scary, as a 9-year-old to watch my mom in the hospital,” she said. “She is a very strong woman and she has inspired me in many ways. She needed so much blood along the way and this inspires me to donate blood and plasma whenever I can.”
Haley Bennett will attend “A” school in the computer electronics computer field in Great Lakes, Ill., as soon as she completes her initial training.
“My mom is now taking care of my son while I am in the Navy,” she said. “I miss my son and taking him to the park for soccer and out on ice creams dates.”
“The people who took the time to donate their blood or plasma are the true, lifesaving heroes of my story,” Erin Bennett said. “During my seven-month treatment, I received almost 2,000 units of fresh frozen plasma. The kindness of strangers gave me more years with my children and husband. They are the people that I cannot thank enough.”
About the Armed Services Blood Program
Since 1962, the Armed Services Blood Program has served as the sole provider of blood for the United States military. As a tri-service organization, the ASBP collects, processes, stores and distributes blood and blood products to Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and their families worldwide. As one of four national blood collection organizations trusted to ensure the nation has a safe, potent blood supply, the ASBP works closely with our civilian counterparts by sharing donors on military installations where there are no military blood collection centers and by sharing blood products in times of need to maximize availability of this national treasure. To find out more about the ASBP or to schedule an appointment to donate, please visit
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