World Blood Donor Day is a day to acknowledge the individuals who have sacrificed their time to donate blood, and encourage others to do the same. Blood is an essential part of the body that is often overlooked and underappreciated. That is, unless you have an illness such as sickle cell disease like Children’s Hospital Los Angeles patients, Ashlie-Marie and Jessy-Anne Henry, do.
They are sisters who have spent numerous days in the Infusion Center for three years to receive blood transfusions. Sickle cell disease is an inherited blood disease that causes the body to produce abnormally shaped blood cells, which can cause difficulty in moving oxygen throughout the body. By receiving blood transfusions on a regular basis, they have been able to live normal lives as every child should.
Although Ashlie-Marie and Jessy-Anne had to visit the hospital on a regular basis, they did it without complaint and with a grateful heart to those who donated blood to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
Ashlie-Marie Henry expresses her gratitude to blood donors:
“To me, a blood donor is an angel walking around on Earth. People take it for granted that, should they ever need such a life-saving tool, it will be there. They don’t think about the people that make it a habit or even the ones that donate just once that made it possible. I have sickle cell disease and I was 7 when I had my first stroke, when I had my second one a few months later, my hematologist put me on chronic blood transfusions to try and prevent a third and more damaging one. I was receiving two units of blood every three weeks for three years. Without the chronic blood transfusions, I do not know where I would be today and what my life would look like. Those transfusions saved me and they would not have been possible without the angels that came like clockwork to donate blood so that there would be some available for children like myself. I could go on and on about the importance of blood donation, but the simple truth is it saves lives!”
In fact, one unit of blood can save as many as three lives at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Blood is a precious resource as there is no substitute.
Jessy-Anne Henry explains her experience:
“For most of my life, I have been dependent on blood transfusions. Sickle cell disease has always been a part of who I am. It was not just some disease I had or an affliction I suffered from, it was and is my life. For a long time when I would lie in the hospital bed for my transfusions, the bags of blood were just that, bags of blood. They were just like another pill to swallow, another medication to take, a routine part of my life that I didn’t think much about—until I was around 10 or 11. I was in the elevator with my mom when I noticed a lady next to me with a large bandage on her arm and a sticker on her chest that read: “I am a Blood Donor.” My mother turned to her, misty eyed and sincere, and thanked her for saving her babies. I know it sounds silly but suddenly everything my mother had told me about blood transfusions and blood donors clicked. The life-saving blood I had been receiving had to come from somewhere, from someone. This life that I was living was a gift given to me by everyday heroes whose only recognition and praise came from a small sticker and a bit of juice and cookies. From that day forward I made a point to stop and thank these unsung heroes for their amazing sacrifice and gift. Without them I wouldn’t be who I am today. Thank you to everyone who has donated blood. I want you to know that even if you think it is just a small gesture, to me and many others, it is monumental and life-saving.”
At CHLA close to 90 percent of blood used for transfusions to help save children’s lives is donated in the Blood Donor Center. “We greatly appreciate donors from all backgrounds and heritages—and we know that there is no better gift than the gift of blood,” says Debbie Harris, RN, MN, CPNP-AC/PC, nurse practitioner in the Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Diseases at CHLA.
To find out how and where to donate blood, visit CHLA.org/DonateBlood.