A platelet disorder leads to bleeding: Jen’s story

February 23, 2016 at 1:00 pm

Jen

Jen Schmitt is the type of person who always puts others before herself.

Her friend Erin Nissen says,

Jen is the most giving and caring person that I have ever known. If I’m having a difficult time, she’s the first friend that I call. She remembers little things. If you say there’s a type of wine you like, before you know it, she’s sent it to you in the mail. She’s so thoughtful.

The Harborview cardiac ICU nurse started having abnormal bleeding in her urinary tract at the end of November, 2015. It wasn’t profuse, but enough to be a concern.

Jen visited the doctor multiple times and had imaging performed to try to figure out where the bleeding was coming from. The week before Christmas, her doctors put her under anesthesia to investigate with an internal scope. Ironically, that’s when the real trouble started.

Jen has a rare genetic platelet disorder called Glanzmann Thrombasthenia. When she bleeds, her platelets adhere to the site of the injury, but don’t effectively clump together to stop the bleeding. Her tissues are easily irritated, so the ordinarily harmless scope used in the procedure caused an injury.

Big blood clots formed, and clung to her bladder wall. The clots would break off, causing bleeding, spasms, and excruciating pain, which then caused more bleeding, clotting, spasms, and pain – an ongoing cycle of misery.

She was admitted to UW Medical Center on Christmas Eve.

Jen’s parents and close friends have been by Jen’s side through the entire ordeal, and can’t even count the number of platelets and red blood cell transfusions she’s received – Jen gets three or four units of platelets with every infusion of NovoSeven, a drug that helps her blood clot.

Because of her bleeding disorder, Jen has needed periodic blood transfusions throughout her life, and as a result has built up antibodies: there are only eight people in Western Washington whose blood and platelets she can receive.

It’s upsetting for Erin to watch her hilarious, generous, and generally private friend accept help from others and face the unknown – no one can tell when this ordeal will stop or what the long-term effects will be.

One comfort is that the blood is there:

It makes her teary-eyed – she can’t believe complete strangers would come in and donate their time and themselves.

Jen’s coworkers have rallied, visiting her in the hospital, bringing her snacks, and sending messages of support.

Jen-Coworkers

Harborview already hosts regular blood drives, and several of Jen’s colleagues have come forward to champion extra drives in February.

Many of her coworkers at Harborview are stepping up to donate blood and platelets in her honor, either at a drive or at our Central Seattle and Federal Way donor centers. Even though they may not be a match for Jen, they know that countless other patients in our region depend on their gifts of blood components.

Jen was finally able to be discharged on February 11th and is recovering with her parents in Olympia. She’s able to find the positive in the whole experience:

She’s always been an amazing nurse and amazing patient advocate – always trying to see things through the eyes of the patient. This has shed more light on how the patient has it in the hospital. It’s giving her greater passion for her profession as a nurse.

Jen’s coworkers at Harborview are hosting another drive in her honor on Thursday, February 25, 2016. Patients like Jen depend on your donations every day.