IU Health University Hospital

Patient wants to get back in the pool and back to school

Patient Stories

August 30, 2019

Diagnosed with Aplastic anemia, Rebecca Richardson’s life has slowed down. A competitive swimmer, she’s hoping to build herself back up enough so she can get back to her favorite exercise.

By T.J. Banes, Senior Journalist, IU Health.
Reach Banes via email: tfender1@iuhealth.org

For ten years, Rebecca Richardson has been in the pool – competing in the breaststroke and relays. It’s a sport she loves.

When she was diagnosed five years ago with Aplastic anemia, she continued to power through. The condition occurs when the bone marrow doesn’t produce an adequate amount of blood cells. It can cause fatigue, a higher risk of infections and uncontrolled bleeding.

For a time, Richardson said her symptoms subsided but then they returned in December of 2018.

Adopted from China at the age of nine months, Richardson said her medical records were inadequate. She was unaware of any complications. So her parents Bret and Tamara Richardson advocated for testing until they had a diagnosis.

“I also have Hepatitis B so we think that triggered the anemia. I first started on meds to decrease the virus in my blood. Then we started treatments for the anemia,” said Richardson. Under the care of IU Health Dr. Robert Nelson she started receiving blood and platelet transfusions.

“Apparently it’s really rare. My doctor told me six out of a million in the U.S. have it but 12 out of a million in China have it,” said Richardson. The Aplastic anemia International Foundation reports the autoimmune disease can affect people of any age, regardless of race or gender. It also appears more often in Asian Americans. Each year between 600 and 900 people in the U.S. are diagnosed.

Even though she had days when her energy levels were low, Richardson loved swimming and completed her career on the Varsity team at Noblesville High School. She graduated in 2018 and began the fall semester at IUPUI. She plans to major in computer science and integrate it into another subject.

“When I relapsed it came back with full force so now I’m taking a break,” said Richardson. She passes the time playing with her golden retriever and mini dachshund.

“Family time is really important to me. We’re all really close,” said Richardson. She has two older sisters and enjoys spending time with her niece and nephew. “I can’t do as much physical activity as I’d like, but I still drive. I just went on a trip to Milwaukee with a friend,” said Richardson. “So you can do the things you want to do. You just take it slower and limit yourself.”

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