LIVINGSTON – Last summer, Livingston High School (LHS) Alumni Meredith Prescott spent her summer organizing a community 5-Kilometer Walk-A-Thon as a fundraiser for a blood disorder called Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP). This year, Prescott has teamed up with fellow ITP patient and NJ ITP Support Group Facilitator Linda McGuirl to organize what they are hoping will become an annual “Pump It Up For Platelets!” Walk/Run at the Livingston Oval on Sunday, June 8.
ITP is an autoimmune disease that is fairly common but often ignored, where the body intensifies immune attacks that target and destroy an individual’s platelets. Prescott and McGuirl, 50, were both diagnosed with the disease at age 21 and have been heart-set on raising awareness and funding for the cause ever since.
Last year, family, friends and various local community members became active participants in support of the cause and ultimately raised more than $45,000. But because the Platelet Disorder Support Association (PDSA) is the sole organization fully supporting ITP, Prescott’s biggest hope for this year is to spread the word even further in order to raise the highest possible number, while also educating the community about the disorder.
“We don’t get government funding and it’s people’s lives on the line,” Prescott said. “We need to come together to spread awareness, raise money and find a cure.”
According to Prescott, ITP is unique because there is no right treatment for any one patient. She said it is heart-breaking for her to realize that children are passing away from this disease because not enough people understand or even recognize what it is, and lives go unnoticed as a result. The main difference between last year’s event and this year’s, she hopes, is that more people will understand the disease and recognize the significance of donating or attending.
“This blood disorder is devastating on every possible level,” Prescott said. “It breaks my heart when I talk to kids who have it because they are robbed of a childhood by living with a disease that no one has ever heard of.”
Recently, Prescott began blogging for the Huffington Post, where she talks about her disease in a post called “What’s Your Number? One Number Could Cost Your Life.” The blog itself discusses how ITP affects almost ten times as many people as hemophilia, yet almost no one knows anything about it.
“It is not genetic and does not discriminate against its victims, as ITP attacks those from all demographics,” she said. “The frustration of dealing with ITP and battling an unknown and unpredictable disease has been the catalyst for me to advocate and spread awareness to better the ITP community.”
Prescott’s blog certainly helps in raising awareness about the disease, but it is not enough. Prescott said partnering with Linda McGuirl, who has had the disease for 29 years, was her smartest decision moving forward because the duo is exceptionally driven and they both fully understand why it’s so necessary to hold these local events. Additionally, even though the ITP community is a small one and is at a disadvantage for funding, McGuirl also has connections to the community that could ultimately make all the difference in their effort.
During the time that McGuirl was diagnosed, there was very little information available about ITP. Despite her disease, McGuirl continued to follow her dreams and was able to have three healthy children, making it all the more vital for her to get the word out now.
McGuirl organized the same event in her own hometown of Basking Ridge, forming an immediate bond with Prescott, who organized the first ever “Pump it Up For Platelets!” event in Livingston. The two will combine their efforts on Sunday, June 8, at what they hope will be the biggest ITP walk/run event since its inception in 2010.
Some of the event’s sponsors include but are not limited to: the Carchia Group, Morgan Stanley and HCHY, with food and drink generously provided by Livingston Bagel and Starbucks.
Having the opportunity to raise awareness about this unrecognized and uncommon disease is Prescott’s main inspiration in co-hosting the event. Those interested can pre-register, make a donation or find more information at http://pdsa.donorpages.com/PumpItUpNJ2014/. Prescott’s blog on ITP can also be found at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/meredith-prescott/whats-your-number_b_5307242.html
“Don't let your compassion stop at wishing to see others free from suffering,” Prescott said. “Do something.”
Registration is $20 for adults and $10 for children. Prescott shared her optimism that her story will encourage other patients to speak up and share their own stories so a cure can be found. Registration/Check-in will begin at noon and the event will begin at 12:30 p.m. at the Livingston Oval on Sunday, June 8.