Every day is a blessing. The Ott family knows it.
Noelle Ott was a seemingly healthy 26-year-old and 24 weeks pregnant in May of 2012, when she started feeling pain throughout her body. Doctors originally thought she was experiencing typical pregnancy symptoms. She wasn’t.
A couple weeks later, Noelle’s blood platelet count began dropping rapidly. She was soon diagnosed with HELLP syndrome, a rare pregnancy complication that involves the breakdown of red blood cells, elevated liver enzymes and low platelet counts. The best course of action was for Noelle to deliver the baby early via C-section.
“According to what I heard, platelets needed to be above 50,000 to survive a C-section, and mine were at 15,000,” Noelle says. “So I guess the plan was to put in 40 units as fast as possible and hope for the best.”
It was a frightening experience. Both Noelle’s and the baby’s chances of survival were far from guaranteed, and her family didn’t know what to expect. “The night before the C-section, the doctor told me she had a 50 percent chance of living through the C-section,” Noelle’s husband James says. “She was burning through platelets basically like a car would burn through oil.”
Noelle survived and the couple’s baby, Evan, entered the world at 1 pound, 11.5 ounces. Following his birth, he received blood, platelets and plasma that kept him alive. But the ordeal didn’t stop there. Noelle’s doctors in Green Bay, Wisc., determined that she wasn’t suffering from HELLP syndrome after all, but rather thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP), a rare blood disorder where blood clots form in small blood vessels throughout the body, causing stroke and organ failure.
Noelle soon began to experience vision loss and was unable to stand. She was rushed to a medical center 100+ miles away in Milwaukee, where she could receive the plasma treatment she needed to recover. For about three months, she received weekly blood and platelet transfusions, including 10 units of plasma each day in the early weeks. “After that initial treatment, I thought, ‘Oh my goodness—this works.’ It was amazing what 10 bags of plasma can do,” she says. “The progress was slow at first but then highly effective. Without the plasma, I wouldn’t have had a chance.”
In November 2022, 10 years after her initial diagnosis, Noelle had a relapse of her TTP when she began experiencing symptoms of stroke: numbness and tingling in her arms, legs, face and tongue; and the inability to speak and form words. Doctors immediately began administering plasma transfusions—as many as 10 each day. “I received daily lifesaving treatments of plasmapheresis and after weeks in the hospital, I was able to return home to my husband and two young children,” she says. “I’m so very grateful for the blood donations that helped me once again achieve remission. I’m so thankful to have my life back!”
Noelle and James are grateful for all of the people who donated blood, plasma and platelets to keep her and Evan alive in the early days and get her through her relapse. “It’s absolute life or death,” she said. “It’s a few minutes or hours of your day, but it’s life or death.”
People need people, make a difference in someone’s life by donating blood.
We must rely on each other for the gift of blood, and patients in your community rely on the generosity of Versiti’s blood donors to help. Please consider scheduling an appointment to donate. If this is your first time, donating blood is quick, easy and relatively painless. And, it is a great way to give back and help patients in your community.