Local Woman Credits Blood Donors in Fight Against Rare Disease

December 1, 2011

Laura Dalpiaz Estimates Nearly 1,500 Blood Donations Saved Her Life


Laura Dalpiaz is a success.  She’s a happily married woman who lives in St. Louis, owns her own accounting business and has dreams of having children.  But the road to get to where she is has not been an easy one.  In fact, Dalpiaz and her mother would agree she shouldn’t even be alive today.

Dalpiaz suffers from a rare disease known by its acronym, Adult Chronic ITP.  The disease, which has no cure, typically affects the spleen, and causes the body to kill its own platelets.  Doctors preliminarily diagnosed Dalpiaz with Adult Chronic ITP when she was just 13 years old, after several bouts of spontaneous bleeding and bruising landed her in the hospital.  Platelet counts by her pediatrician were always low, typically around 50,000, far less than average. 

Dalipaz’s spleen was destroying her platelets, and as a result, even the slightest cut or bruise could cause massive bleeding, and possibly death.  Because of this, Dalpiaz was often not allowed to go to school, and when she did attend, she had to take special care, even leaving class periods early so she wouldn’t be in the hallway during passing times.  “If someone had hit me in the abdomen and my (platelet) counts were low…I could’ve had internal bleeding,” she says.

Doctors began giving Dalpiaz infusions of what is known as IVIG, a substance designed to disguise platelets so they will not be destroyed by the body.  The IVIG treatments appeared to be working, causing her platelet counts to soar.  However, the remedy was only temporary.  One night, just days after receiving a pint of IVIG, Dalpiaz was rushed to the hospital with a dangerously low platelet count.  Doctors told Dalpiaz and her mother, Brenda Maly, they would have to wait for a pint of IVIG to be flown to St. Louis because none was available locally due to a shortage of donors.  While mother and daughter waited, Maly made the decision to begin giving back.  After learning the blood in Dalpiaz’s IVIG treatments was provided by American Red Cross donors, Maly decided that night she, too, would become a donor.  “I became a donor to give back to the organization that has saved my daughter’s life so many times,” she says.

Dalpiaz’s spleen was eventually removed, though remarkably grew back multiple times.  After it was removed a final time, the liver began destroying platelets, leaving Dalpiaz with seemingly no options.

“For the first time, extreme terror overtook my mind,” Maly recalls.  “There was nothing left to do for Laura.”

But, it turns out, there was.  Using results from a study still in its infancy, doctors began giving Dalpiaz massive amounts of steroids.  They worked, and eventually brought Dalpiaz’s platelet count to around 200,000.  “Laura was 20 years old and survived a nightmare,” Maly says.

Dalpiaz’s Adult Chronic ITP has been in remission for the past seven years, but could come out of remission at any time.  She doesn’t think about that, though; instead, she keeps her eyes forward, and does not dwell on what might have happened.

“People always ask me, if you could do life again, would you do it without (the ITP), and I usually say no,” she says.  “It made me the person that I am."

And now that person, along with her proud mother, is urging eligible blood donors to give blood and platelets so that someone like her could also have a shot at life.  Because of her compromised immune system, Dalpiaz is unable to donate blood, but Maly does so regularly, estimating she’s given blood nearly 40 times since making the decision that fateful night many years ago.  She figures it took nearly 1,500 blood donations to keep her daughter alive, and she intends to pay as much of that back as possible.

If you’d like to follow their lead, schedule an appointment to donate whole blood or platelets by calling 1-800 RED CROSS or visiting www.redcrossblood.org.    





How to Donate Blood:

Call 1-800-RED CROSS or log on to redcrossblood.org for more information or to schedule a blood donation appointment. All blood types are needed to ensure the Red Cross maintains an adequate blood supply. A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Donors must be in general good health, weigh at least 110 pounds and be at least 17 years old (16 with completed Parental Consent Form). New height and weight restrictions apply to donors younger than 19. Visit redcrossblood.org to learn more.


About the American Red Cross:

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies nearly half of the nation's blood; teaches lifesaving skills; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization — not a government agency — and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or join our blog at http://blog.redcross.org.