Blood. I really do love it. I consider it one of my life’s passions, along with woman’s rights, writing, orchids and baby foxes. The last two are temporary obsessions. But blood…that’ll be a long-term distraction, up until the day I die. Why? Because you know those sand time clocks (also known as hour glasses)? The ones that slowly empty into the bottom half?
I’m not saying that our demise comes about because our blood slowly drains out. No, no, no. Diseases take us, the ends of our chromosomes called telomeres finally become too short to copy, we have accidents, our defective genes decide to activate, spontaneous combustion. These things bring about death. But the truth is the health of our blood, its volume and its composition directly indicates our condition. Literally its health can be translated into time; into years, into days and into months.
I’m not trying to be morbid; it’s one of my many minor flaws, I know. And I don’t mean to bring gloom, I just mean to be realistic, maybe even raw. So I decided, in the Christmas spirit, to write the rest of this ‘Blood’ article in an acrostic of sorts:
aGglutination, the clumping of red blood cells. This occurs when someone accidentally gets the wrong blood type. ‘G’ can also stand for Granulocytes, a class of granule-containing white blood cells including Neutrophils, Eosinophils, Mast cells and Basophils, all of which help fight infection.
Immune Thrombocytopenia. An immune disorder where the body destroys platelets. People with this disorder have low platelet counts which can cause red or purple dots on the skin, they may have problems with easy bruising, nosebleeds, blood blisters in the mouth or internal bleeding1.
Von Willebrand disease, named after the protein in blood that helps with clotting. In Von Willebrand disease, the body either produces too little of the protein, or a dysfunctional version. Inherited, many live normal lives but some will have excessive bleeding after an injury or during surgery2.
Eosinophilic disorders. Eosinophils help fight infection and usually exist in the blood stream at a low number. But in response to many blood disorders, from blood cancers to skin conditions, the body will produce more. Sometimes these cells will move out of the blood stream and build up in organs and tissues.
Bleeding Disorders. The most famous being Hemophilia, thanks to that one Russian Emperor and its appearance in the English Royal family in the 1800s. Hemophiliacs cannot stop bleeding because they lack a clotting factor. They require concentrated injections of clotting factor VII or IX, depending on the type of hemophilia they have.
Leukemia and Myeloma. Blood is produced in the bone marrow, where it develops into all the different kinds of cells that help fight infection, keeping you alive. Sometimes, the cells are destined for defection right from the start; either they don’t move past a development stage or they develop irregularly. This problem not only prevents the body from receiving its new ‘helpers’ it also causes overcrowding, a suffocation of the rest of the bone marrow. This can occur with infection-fighting white blood cells (Luekemias) or plasma cells (Myelomas).
LymphOma. Like Leukemia, Lymphoma is the result of dysfunctional white blood cell development and growth. However Lymphomas begins in the lymph nodes.
Iron Overload. Often occurring in individuals with bleeding disorders and Sickle Cell Anemia, Iron overload results when a patient has received too many blood transfusions. The effects can be disastrous; high redox potential causing unwanted reactions, eventually lead to organ damage3. Symptoms range from tiredness and weight loss to heart failure and liver disease4.
Deep Venous thrombosis. A blood clot in a deep vein, perhaps in the leg. A deep venous thrombosis may potentially dislodge and travel through the heart to the lungs, causing a lethal pulmonary embolism2.
All of these diseases, conditions and disorders require blood. It may seem bleak, looking at all the things that could go wrong. But the way I look at it, I see everything that’s gone right. The world, although we forget, is a jungle of parasites, viruses, bacteria and fungus. We are reminded every once in a while, whenever we have a cold or get a cut. It’s almost like although we call Earth our home, it’s foreign to our bodies. Our blood keeps us alive, not just when we’re sick or when we’re attacked, but from the moment we’re born it starts fighting for and sustaining our survival. It’s like our space suit, so we can walk on this wonderful planet, so we have a chance at a wonderful life.
Merry Christmas my friends, Kara M
Xoxox, P.S. I’m off to Cuba for two weeks! Follow me on my new Instagram @emptyfieldspink
1 UCSF Medical Centre. (2014). Immune Thrombocytopenia. Retrieved December 7, 2014 from http://www.ucsfhealth.org/conditions/immune_thrombocytopenia/index.html
2 WebMD. (2014). Information and Resources, Types of Blood Disorders. Retrieved December 7, 2014 from http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/blood-disorder-types-and-treatment?page=3
3 W. Breuer , Z. I. Cabantchik, B. P. Esposito, C. Hershko, P. Pootrakul and P. Sirankapracha, “Labile plasma iron in iron overload: redox activity and susceptibility to chelation,” Blood, vol. 102, no. 7, pp. 2670–2677, 2003.
4 Aplastic Anemia MDS International Foundation. (2011). Iron Chelation Therapy. Retrieved July 4, 2014 from http://www.aamds.org/node/82