Melissa & Maeryn Kelly
Transfusions played a critical role in young girl's fight against cancer
Melissa Kelly has been a blood donor for years, giving when she could fit it into her busy schedule--"whenever it was convenient," she says.
But as she sat next to her young daughter Maeryn in the hospital in 2016, waiting for precious blood transfusions that would help Maeryn in her fight against pre-B cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, she vowed to donate whenever she was able and do her part to end blood shortages.
Maeryn was only nine years old when she began to experience pain in her hips, legs and knees. An otherwise healthy girl with a love of drawing, cooking, and crafting, she was diagnosed with "growing pains," and started physical therapy soon thereafter. But as months went by, Maeryn's pain increased with no sign of healing.
Maeryn was only nine years old when she began to experience pain in her hips, legs and knees. An otherwise healthy girl with a love of drawing, cooking, and crafting, her mother took her to the doctor where she was diagnosed with "growing pains," and started physical therapy soon thereafter. But as months went by, Maeryn's pain increased with no sign of healing.
From there, the news got much worse. "We went back to the doctor where it was confirmed that she had leukemia," Melissa recalls.
Maeryn went straight to Cincinnati Children's Hospital and Medical Center, where they would work to identify the specific type of leukemia and develop a treatment plan.
It was during this time that blood and platelet transfusions played a critical role in Maeryn's care. In order to diagnose the specific type of cancer, she would first need a transfusion to replenish her red and white blood cell counts, which had fallen dangerously low.
And it was during this time that Melissa realized the true impact that blood donors have on local patients.
"Due to a shortage of blood at that time, we could not obtain blood for the transfusion for five hours," Melissa remembers. "During that time, we were left to wait and wonder. And during that time, I vowed that I would donate anytime I was asked or able."
"I didn't realize the true impact of donating until I was sitting in the hospital, trying to determine what was going to be our course of treatment for the next 2 and a half years," she adds. "Now I will go the extra mile. I can appreciate that other families are in that place and treatment can't begin until a proper diagnosis is made."
Fortunately, Maeryn received her needed transfusions--and after spending her 10th birthday in the hospital, she is doing well today. She will be in treatment for another year, but she is already back to doing the things she loves: Playing with her friends, going to school, riding her bike, and fixing her hair. She was also named an "Honored Hero" for the Tri-State Southern Ohio Chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS).
Maeryn is well on her way to recovery, but her diagnosis and treatment has left a lasting impression on Melissa.
"There is no love like that for your child," she says, "And, at that moment, all I wanted to do was make it better; to take away the pain and set her on the right path toward health and happiness, but my hands were tied. That is, until the gift of blood donation helped chart the course for treatment."
Melissa has become an even more fervent advocate for blood donation in the wake of Maeryn's illness. Her employer, Veritiv, has held blood drives in Maeryn's honor, and "in an effort to show my kids that blood donation is easy-breezy, I've taken them with me and they've seen me donate. They've asked questions and talked to the staff at Hoxworth firsthand!" she says.
She is also encouraging others to join her in rolling up a sleeve and making blood shortages a thing of the past.
"For anyone else who is unsure about donating, I would show them my daughter's face," she says. "I would show them the picture of her holding the poster for the drive in her honor. I would tell them how it felt to wait, while we were at the mercy of others to get blood products to her."
Melissa will never forget how it felt to wait for those lifesaving blood products. But she will also never forget the waves of appreciation towards to the donors who helped her daughter.
"It's hard to find words to express that sort of gratitude."