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Erythropoietin: A Patient Perspective

This personal story by Nancy Spaeth was published in December 2008 as part of the special ASH anniversary brochure, 50 Years in Hematology: Research That Revolutionized Patient Care.

Before dialysis, when I was 15, in 1963, I took first place skiing in a coed slalom race. I beat the boys. Two years later, I couldn't walk from the lodge to the lift.

I started on dialysis in 1966. I don't remember how many transfusions I had. It was many, at least one per month. I had to be desperate before the doctor would order blood.

I was part of the phase III clinical trial in 1987. I was on home dialysis, raising two children, alone. My hematocrit (HCT) was 11-15 percent; I couldn't walk up the stairs. I had to crawl on my hands and knees because I was so out of breath. Once I started on the drug, I could tell there was a change within two weeks. Within 30 days, my HCT was 40! My daughter said, "All of a sudden you were up and going." Eventually, I could run up the stairs.

I used to be asked, "What are you doing?" I answered, "What can I do? My body has me in prison." Epo changed all of that. What a difference it made in my life!