Val was diagnosed with von Willebrand disease at the age of 57, having put up with a lifetime of unexplained bruising and excessive bleeding.
Although Val told doctors that she “bruised and bled”, she was never tested for a bleeding disorder, despite suffering very heavy periods, nosebleeds and prolonged bleeding after surgery and childbirth.
It was only when she needed neck surgery a few years ago, that a consultant finally checked her clotting levels and realised that something was wrong. Val was diagnosed with type 2 VWD and tests later showed that her mother, son, grandson, sister and niece also have the condition.
Speaking out as part of The Haemophilia Society’s Talking Red campaign, which raises awareness about women’s bleeding disorders, Val said: “It didn’t occur to me that I might have a bleeding disorder. My heavy bleeding was my life and what was happening all the time – that was normal for me. Except it wasn’t, and I didn’t know.”
Val’s periods were so heavy she would sometimes have to wear nappies to avoid leaking at school and, later, at work where she was a midwife. She would bleed for three weeks out of four. After having three children, she had a hysterectomy at the age of 37. Val bruised so easily that she discovered that colleagues were concerned she may have been suffering from domestic abuse.
Having a diagnosis meant that finally Val and her family could understand what having VWD meant and get the treatment and care they needed.
Although Val does not require regular medication for her VWD, she takes tranexamic acid occasionally and now receives much more monitoring and attention if she has any surgery.
Not only did Val’s diagnosis solve the mystery of her health problems, but she believes it may have saved the life of her son who at the time was suffering excessive bleeding following surgery which doctors were unable to stop. As soon as Val told his medical team of her diagnosis his treatment changed and the bleeding was brought under control.
For Val, who is now 66, Talking Red has given her support and information and she is keen to encourage any woman who is experiencing symptoms similar to hers to get checked for a bleeding disorder.
Val said: “My diagnosis was life saving for my son, who also has VWD, and will make a big difference to younger and future generations of my family who will understand their condition and receive the right care as a result.
“Talking Red helped me realise I wasn’t the only one and gave me lots of support. It’s about helping women understand that what they are putting up with may not be ‘normal’ and that there are things that can be done so they don’t have to live like that. “
Book your place on The Haemophilia Society’s free one day Talking Red conference in York on Saturday, 14 March today.