Mikala Hodgens’ story began with a routine visit to the doctor for fever and pain in her shoulder, the start of her battle against leukemia. Because of her illness, her parents learned the importance of having blood products on hand, and urged their family and friends to become American Red Cross donors.
In January of this year, Mikala received the diagnosis no one was expecting - leukemia. “Things just weren’t adding up,” her mother, Micki, said. “I took her to The Wichita Clinic in Kansas. It was a pretty routine visit. We saw the doctor, had lab work drawn and returned home.”
Mother and daughter had just gotten home when they received a call from the clinic to return for more tests. “The nurse asked me how soon we could get back to the clinic because they needed to do more tests,” Micki said. “As I was driving over, I started to get worried and started to pray – to prepare me for what I was about to hear.”Mikala’s life changed abruptly after her leukemia diagnosis.
The doctor met with Mikala’s mother and reported that her daughter had leukemia and needed to get to the hospital right away. Mikala spent almost two weeks in the hospital. Nurses performed a procedure called leukopheresis three times to reduce the number of white cells in Mikala’s blood. During the spring, Mikala spent her time undergoing treatments, resting and going to school part-time when she felt well enough to attend classes.
In late July, trouble hit again when Mikala’s platelet counts kept dropping. The morning of July 23, she was admitted to the hospital because her platelet count had dropped to just one. An average platelet count ranges from 150 to 400. Mikala needed platelets badly, but the type she needed (A negative, CMV negative) was not available anywhere in Kansas due to a shortage.
“This was very scary,” said Mikala’s father, Doug. “Just like when you turn on the faucet, you expect water to come out; when you go to the hospital, you expect it to have the blood your child needs. I couldn’t believe it wasn’t there.”
The family was told they could take Mikala home until platelets could be found, but if bleeding started, it could be fatal. The family chose to stay in the hospital. By the next morning, the Red Cross had located platelets for Mikala in Omaha, Neb. and flew them in specifically to treat her. Over the course of the next two and a half weeks, Mikala received eight transfusions, including both red cells and platelets.
While Mikala was still in the hospital, her parents started asking their friends for help via email and social media. They told Mikala’s story and urged people to give blood or platelets. The phones at the Red Cross lit up for the next two weeks. During this time, Mikala’s father donated platelets for the first time. Although he wasn’t a match for Mikala, he knew that his donation would help another person like his daughter. Doug also did interviews with the local paper and two television stations to help Red Cross recruit more platelet donors. Since that time, Doug has continued to donate platelets each month.
In September, the Hodgens family received the good news they had been waiting for — Mikala was in remission. Over the next two years, Mikala will continue to take chemotherapy thru an IV every four to six weeks, chemo pills each day and a shot each week. She will follow this regimen until her treatment is completed. Mikala will also have blood drawn every week to make sure her white cell, hemoglobin and platelet counts remain normal.
Mikala’s story highlights just how important each and every blood donation can be. Every two seconds, someone in this country needs blood. 44,000 blood donations are needed every day to help patients like Mikala.
The Red Cross is one of the largest suppliers of blood in the United States. Each year, the Red Cross distributes 9.2 million blood products for patients in approximately 3,000 hospitals and transfusion centers across the country.
If someone would like to give blood, they must be 17 years of age (16 with parental permission in some states), meet weight and height requirements (110 pounds or more, depending on their height) and be in generally good health. People should bring their Red Cross blood donor card or other form of positive ID when they come to donate.
To schedule a donation time or get more information about giving blood, people can visit redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).