National Preparedness Month is a great time to develop a disaster plan, get information on how to be prepared, and learn more about what a local community’s plans are for emergencies. A crucial part of community preparedness is a sufficient blood supply, so it’s also the perfect time to roll up a sleeve and give a lifesaving gift for a patient in need.
MEET MENGYAN MCKINNEY In her eight years, MengYan McKinney has been through more than most adults can even imagine. Born in China, Meng was left at an orphanage when she was just a newborn. At 14 months old, she was diagnosed with Beta Thalassemia Major. The genetic hemoglobin disorder caused a mutation in her red blood cells, making her body destroy any new red cells she produces. The condition requires red cell blood transfusions often and on a consistent basis, an expense the orphanage could not afford.
“An American missionary was in China and heard MengYan's story,” said Meng’s mother Ann McKinney. “She was given permission to take Meng to the Philip Hayden Foundation.”
The Philip Hayden Foundation is an American-run orphanage in China for children with medical needs. They were able to provide the care Meng needed to stay alive.
Ann and her husband, Dale, welcomed Meng to their family in the United States in October 2009. She continues to receive red cell transfusions every two weeks.
“Researchers are searching for a cure, but until they find one, my daughter's life is completely dependent on amazing, compassionate blood donors,” Ann said. “Unfortunately, I am not a match for her blood type, but I know that my blood can help others like her or others in different situations, that need a lifesaving or sustaining blood transfusion.”
Because of side effects the disorder causes, like an enlarged spleen, Meng is not able to play sports in school but has found a love for painting and the trampoline. She also enjoys playing with her 10 siblings.
“Meng does not hate her disease, it is just a part of her life,” Ann said. “I see my daughter run and play like a normal kid, and I know it is only because someone took the time to donate blood to the American Red Cross.”
HOW TO GIVE For more information about donating blood, or to make an appointment to donate blood or platelets, please visit redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). Individuals who are at least 17 years of age (16 with parental consent in some states), weigh at least 110 pounds and be in good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.