Hereditary blood disease cuts lives short

A little-known hereditary blood disease affecting an estimated 1.2 million people worldwide cuts many lives short.

Leonard Doc Hanks, 55, suffers from Hereditary Hemorrhagic Telangiectasia or HHT. He bleeds from his nose or GI track daily because of abnormal blood vessels throughout his body.

The smallest vessels in the body, capillaries, help to slow down blood flow from arteries to veins, but in people with HHT some capillaries do not form correctly. This causes veins to weaken and then break. Hanks finds the constant blood loss takes a toll.

"Fatigue, stay nauseated. You don't want to eat. You become short winded. You become short winded big time," described Hanks.

The disease runs in the family and Hanks recently had to cope with death of his cousin Raymond.

"He received 192 transfusions at the cost of $368,934," explained Hanks about his cousin who died from complications of HHT.

According to the HHT International Foundation, though the disease is genetic, it can originate in three different genes. Hanks added any child of someone with HHT has a 50 percent chance of contracting the disease.

To support people with HHT in Southwest Louisiana go to the Sulphur Walmart Saturday June 25, 2011. LifeShare Blood Center will be hosting a blood drive from 11am until 5pm.

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