Think & Explore.

How my problem aligns with my passion:

There are three things in my life that I can say I have always been passionate about and probably always will be passionate about: my education, traveling, and eating good food. I plan to spend my life (after getting the best education, of course) traveling the world and eating all of the food I can get my hands on. Most people don’t even have to think twice about the traveling part—they can just hop on a plane and go anywhere in the world they wish for as long as they (or finances) want without considering that sitting on a plane for too long could kill them. Also, they wouldn’t even have to contemplate the food they eat—if it looks good, they just eat it! Without worry, without thinking of the repercussions, without worrying that their latest bite of food may be the one that lowers their INR and gives them a blood clot. Well, I am not that person. 

I have inherited a rare blood disorder called Protein S Deficiency. Basically, I have a deficiency in the S Proteins in the fluid of my blood. Those S Proteins are an integral component of blood that keeps it from clotting—without them, patients are extremely susceptible to deadly blood clots (you always hear the stories of the people who die after long flights because of blood clots—it’s like that, except I don’t necessarily need to take a long flight for it to happen).

In order to regulate this, I have to take blood thinning medication for the rest of my life. In addition, to make sure my blood isn’t too thick or thin, I have to go to a doctor at least once a week for a blood test so they can check my INR and adjust my dose accordingly (INR stands for International Normalized Ratio and it measures the time it takes for blood to clot). Each visit to the doctor for this simple finger-poke test takes upwards of an hour—an hour, as an engineering student, that I simply do not have.

But it really isn’t the time issue that really bugs me about having to get my INR checked every week, it is simply the fact that I have to go or risk serious health problems. There is no way I that I will safely be able to pursue my dreams and travel for extended periods of time if I have to be back every week for one little finger-poke! Additionally, an INR can be changed depending on what foods are eaten (Vitamin K rich foods, especially)—meaning that some foods are off-limits to me unless I want to completely throw my coagulation levels off-track. I will not be able to enjoy any food I want without worrying that it could harm me in ways other than just making me fat…

The problem is in the technology. The devices used to perform the test are similar to devices that diabetics use to test blood sugar levels. However, for whatever reason, the INR devices are not normally sold to the public for home-use. I believe that there has to be a way to advance the technology enough so that it can be sold to the public so they can safely test their INR anywhere in the world and at any time without having to go to a clinic every week!

 

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