Belfast Telegraph

Unionist peer Rogan tells Lords of his trauma over rare blood disease

By Noel McAdam

A Northern Ireland peer has revealed how he woke up covered in blood as the result of a rare disease.

Lord Rogan was discovered to be suffering from Immune thombocytopenia (ITP), a bleeding disorder which can affect just one to four in every 100,000 of the population.

And he said: "The thing is, I could go through the rest of my life and it will never happen again - but it could happen again tomorrow morning."

The 71-year-old had gone to bed as usual and slept normally before waking up bleeding from his nose and mouth.

"I was feeling a bit groggy and it was very strange to find the blood everywhere, it was somewhat distressing" the Ulster Unionist told the Belfast Telegraph.

He went straight to Belfast City Hospital where doctors discovered his platelet count - the blood cells responsible for clotting - was down to two.

"I didn't know what that meant and asked the doctors and they said they start to get worried when it is less than 150," he revealed yesterday.

"It was a very daunting experience and I certainly got my value out of the National Health Service, but I am fighting fit now."

Lord Rogan disclosed his ordeal in a debate in the House of Lords on the availability of treatments for rare diseases.

"I was in hospital for over a week. At first they just plumped me full of platelets and then I was on steroids as a result of which my body weight went up by 20%," he added.

"But when the steroids stopped my weight came back down and I am fighting fit now."

The grim experience happened less than a year ago and he told his fellow members of the Lords this week: "The body's immune system targets itself. It leads to a reduction in the elements of the blood called platelets responsible for making the blood clot.

"When their numbers fall there is an increased risk of bleeding and in the most severely affected patients bleeding may be spontaneous, difficult to control and, indeed, life-threatening."

"Some 11 months ago I retired to bed perfectly normally to wake up the next morning in a bed with pillows and sheets covered in blood and bleeding from my nose and mouth."

During the debate, leading retired doctor Lord Patel told Lord Rogan it was good to see him "looking so well".

"The thought that you might have had a platelet count of two, which I have never come across, surprises me," he said.

Lord Rogan said he wanted to pay tribute to the team at Belfast City Hospital and resident medical practitioner Dr Paul Grimes and Professor Adrian Newland who helped him understand the condition.


Lord Rogan of Lower Iveagh was chairman of the Ulster Unionist Party during the crucial years of David Trimble's leadership following the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. He also served as president of the UUP from 2004 to 2006 and is now leader of the UUP group in the House of Lords. He lists his recreations as rugby, gardening, oriental carpets, and shooting. A member of the International Advisory Board of Independent News and Media, he is also a patron of The Somme Association and the Honorary Colonel of 40 (Ulster) Signals Regiment.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph