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Saulsbury fights rare blood disease

Tricia Saulsbury of Kensington is pictured here with her children, Emma and Nathan. Saulsbury recently underwent a blood marrow transplant. (Contributed photo)

At 43, Tricia Saulsbury of Kensington is facing a health crisis in her life that she never anticipated, nor could have. On April 5 she was diagnosed with aplastic anemia.

Aplastic anemia is an uncommon blood disease where bone marrow does not produce sufficient new cells to replenish blood cells. Tricia's bone marrow simply is not producing enough red blood cells, white blood cells, or platelets.

Red blood cells carry oxygen to the body. White blood cells fight infections. Platelets clot together to seal small cuts and stop bleeding. All three are vital to a healthy body, and a lack of them can lead to a number of serious problems.

Tricia and her doctors knew that something was wrong as long ago as three years, when she registered low platelet counts in blood tests.

Her oncologist in Alexandria had been monitoring her platelet count, but could not come up with a satisfactory diagnosis. Tricia even had a bone marrow biopsy, which still did not give doctors, even at the Mayo Clinic, sufficient evidence for a positive diagnosis.

In the meantime, she lived her life as normally as she could, but was tired all the time, and gradually got more so. She didn't exhibit any other symptoms.

In March her doctor did another bone marrow biopsy, which was sent to the Mayo Clinic, and finally her disease was identified as aplastic anemia.

Doctors describe the cause of her disease as "idiopathic." In other words, they don't know. There is some indication that aplastic anemia is related to exposure to certain toxins in the environment, and Tricia is exploring that possibility.

In late April she went to Mayo for a four-day treatment. The doctors tried ATG drug therapy, which if successful, can get blood antibodies functioning again. Tricia had reason to be optimistic. Doctors told her that there was an 80 percent chance the therapy would work.

It didn't, and now she has no other therapy available other than a blood marrow transplant. The donor will be her sister, Kim Brakken, who is a bone marrow match.

Tricia can expect to be at Mayo for at least two months, and her husband, Jesse, will be there with her while she recuperates. In the meantime her job as an office manager in Alexandria is on hold, as is Jesse's job at 3M.

The success of the transplant is uncertain, and Tricia is aware of that. What gives her strength is the determination to beat the disease and be there for her children.

She has a stepson, Adam, who is 22, a stepdaughter, Taylor who is 14, and her own two children, Emma, 9, and Nathan, 7. Her main concern is for them, and who will take care of them.

"I've gotten a lot of support from family and friends," she related. "The community has been great. People have offered to help with my kids - everyone has been very supportive."

One show of that support is a pancake breakfast for her and her family put on by the Kensington Lions recently.


An account has been set up at the Kensington Bank to help defray medical expenses. Donations may be sent to Tricia Saulsbury Benefit Fund.