(And the legs, while you’re at it.)
This is a picture of my legs, with feet attached. The one on the left side of the photo is called “Right” and the one on the right side of the photo is called “Left”. Not very original, but it works.
So these are my legs and my feet. You can see them because I’m wearing shorts. You can also see them when I wear dresses or skirts, either with tights or with socks and shoes, or sometimes with hiking boots when I feel alternative. I wear long pants or jeans, too, but then you can’t see my legs, so there would be no point in taking a picture or writing this blog.
Anyway, you probably noticed that my legs are not one color. Actually, they are one color – pale Caucasian. They just have bruises all over them. Teeny tiny pinpoint-sized bruises known as petechiae. (There’s also a regular-sized purple bruise on Left, but that’s a separate story.)
And now you want to know how you, too, can get petechiae so your legs can be as devilishly attractive as mine. Well, sorry, you’re out of luck. You can’t just go out and get them. Maybe a clever tattoo artist… but that wouldn’t be the same. True petechiae come and go. They happen in dark reddish-purple, then they fade to freckle brown, and they are continually replaced by new ones in slightly different locations. Tattoos don’t do that, at least not of their own accord.
But how did I get them, you ask? Why, you nosy little devil. Hardly anyone ever asks in real life. In fact, they never do. I don’t know why they don’t ask. They ask why when I get bruises on my arms, but those are always the customary bruises, not the itty bitty kind. Maybe people don’t realize it’s the same.
Honestly, I’m glad you asked. I like to have a chance to explain, and since no one asks for real, you’ve given me a nice opportunity, even if I did have to make you up with the voices in my head. So here we go: I have all those little red and purple and brown spots on my legs because I have a blood disorder. It’s called Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP), or thrombocytopenia, for short. It’s an autoimmune case of mistaken identity. My white blood cells decided that my blood platelets (also known as ‘thrombocytes’, get it?) were bad guys, so the white cells are killing off the platelets. Naughty little white cells, they’ve turned into serial killers, but I can’t stop them. No one can. Doctors can give you – or rather, me – steroids and platelet transfusions and intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg) and sometimes other drugs that might make the white cells behave. Temporarily. Doctors can even remove your spleen, which also destroys platelets, but that’s not guaranteed to help at all. Besides, I’ve become quite fond of my spleen over the years, and I’d miss it if it were gone. Sometimes you just decide to live with ITP, as it is.
Living with ITP means I have to be careful. Platelets are the sticky little buggers that grab onto each other when you get a cut, forming a scab which keeps all your blood from leaking out. Normal people have between 150,000 and 450,000 platelets in each microliter of blood. (Don’t worry, people don’t have to count them. They have machines to do that.) In 1994, when I was diagnosed with lupus, I only had 90,000 platelets, which means it takes a lot longer to find enough of them to plug up a hole and stop the bleeding. In 2005, when I was diagnosed with nephritis (a complication of lupus), I only had 5,000. The doctors put me in a hospital bed and said, “Don’t get up, except to go to the bathroom. But be very careful doing that. If you fall down and hit your head, it could make your brain bleed and you would die before your body found enough platelets to stop it.” So I stayed in bed, like a good little patient, and watched Austin Powers movies while my body soaked up the treatments.
First the nurses hooked my IV up to a bag full of watery light-red stuff they said was platelets. Then they made me swallow prednisone pills, which taste like your worst nightmare. When all that didn’t help, they gave me IVIg. (Look that up above, I don’t want to spell it out again.) Somewhere along the line, my platelet count made it up to 40,000. Time for a Happy Platelet Dance. At 30,000, they start hooking you up for a transfusion, but at 40,000, you can go back to your ‘normal’ life. More or less. 40,000 platelets is enough to get along fairly well in life, provided no one drops a piano on your head or you suddenly decide to have something broken or removed. (Remember, if you have ITP, to plan ahead for these things. Schedule carefully. Don’t break that toe until you’re sure your platelets can handle it.) However, you still won’t have enough platelets to seal off those tiny little blood vessels in your legs, so you’ll get petechiae. And that’s how it happened to me.
At any rate, I didn’t have much point for this blog. I just wanted to show off my legs online, like I do in real life. I’m not ashamed of them. They might look a little weird, but it’s just a different color. Not everybody gets to have bicolored legs. They’re pretty good legs, all things considered. They’ve put up with a lot in my life so far, and I intend to get them into even more mischief before it’s all over. Me and my exiguous little platelets and my splotchy feet and legs altogether, that is.
Oh yes, and my spleen can come along, too.