LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - For the past nine years, a Lufkin woman has battled not knowing why she was chronically ill. Jennifer Ball was recently diagnosed with a genetic disorder that has changed her life after 12 blood transfusions and numerous emergency surgeries. The 29-year-old is using her obstacles to help others overcome their own.
Ball is able to laugh and smile again after learning why she was deathly ill for several years.
"My blood count was down to a 3.5. Normal is probably about a 12 to 15. It wasn't really scary until I found out at 3.2 you're dead," Ball said.
In 2004, the then 20-year-old had no idea what a blood transfusion was and why she was having them every month.
"I was terrified but I think at that point I was just giving everything that I had to stay alive," Ball said.
She went to different doctors and hospitals trying to find answers.
"They started running more tests," Ball said. "I was having colonoscopies and upper scopes every time I went in, and stool samples, and everything they could possibly thought could be wrong."
By the age of 21, Ball received 12 different blood transfusions but still no answers.
Finally, after seven different surgeries and years later the Lufkin woman found out why she had been so ill.
"My last surgery was in 2011. Right before my surgery I was introduced to a researcher; brilliant man. He had been going to conferences about a new genetic disorder that has been recently discovered called HHT, and its hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia," Ball said. "It's where my blood vessels and arteries did not form correctly in my body when I was born, so my veins either bust and bleed or reroute to my heart a different way."
Balls said only one in 500,000 will be diagnosed with the rare form of the HHT she had been suffering with.
"Going through this whole process and learning what I actually have is a blessing because I know what's wrong," Ball said "I can tell people about it, get the word out about it, and the whole nine years of going through this has made me a stronger person."
When ball was 19, she lost hearing in both of her ears.
"It got to the point that I woke up one day and I couldn't hear the water running in the shower," Ball said.
10 years later, her hearing has gradually come back and has turned her into the helpful sign language interpreter she is today.
Ball said she is putting her talents to use by helping others live normal lives despite their obstacles.