By Mary Brant, Regional Communications Manager, Red Cross Northern New England Region
Jaidyn Harlow is a big Harry Potter fan and without a doubt the highest of Ravenclaws – which is one of four houses making up Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Ravenclaws are known for their wit, learning and wisdom. All traits that have served Jaidyn well battling leukemia.
Her first diagnosis came in 2019. She was just 16 years old. Following a bout with extreme fatigue and a fall on the ice that bothered her back far longer than seemed normal, Kathy Harlow, Jaidyn’s mom, took her daughter to the hospital expecting to hear a diagnosis of mononucleosis. Blood work was done and the next day Kathy received news no parent ever wants to hear – Jaidyn had acute-B lymphoblastic leukemia, a particularly aggressive form of cancer. She needed blood transfusions immediately. For the close-knit Harlow family, the diagnosis was hard to hear, but from the beginning the Ravenclaw spirit in Jaidyn was strong and the New Hampshire teen vowed to beat the illness.
This was the beginning of two years of treatment including both chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Radiation can affect the body’s ability to produce platelets – that component of blood that helps it clot. Over the course of those two years Jaidyn required 49 blood transfusions and 26 platelet transfusions. Thanks to generous, volunteer donors, the blood products were available when she needed them.
The Harlow family’s hometown is small. Claremont is a town where people know one another and help each other out. Michael Huse learned of Jaidyn’s battle from his son who attended the same school. He is actively involved with multiple civic organizations, including the Masons, and reached out to Kathy to ask how he could help.
The decision was made to host a blood drive to bring attention to the need for blood; the goal of the drive was to replace the blood that Jaidyn had already received, and make sure it was available for the next patient who needed it. Thanks to generous community members that 2019 drive collected 27 pints of lifesaving blood.
In a battle for her life the Ravenclaw in Jaidyn helped her stay focused on what she could control and, in 2020, she completed her sophomore year on the Stevens High School honor roll. All while battling heavy side effects of her treatment.
Their hometown’s support touched the Harlow family, but Jaidyn’s battle wasn’t over yet. She continued focusing all her energy on getting better – and school, which she loved. Jaidyn graduated in June 2021 with high honors. Her graduation ceremony was held on a Thursday and she was re-admitted to the hospital that following Saturday. Jaidyn’s leukemia was back.
Michael Huse again asked what he could do to help, after talking with Kathy he reached out to his contacts at the Red Cross and the decision was made to do a second blood drive. Once again, the citizens of Claremont rallied around Jaidyn and the drive collected 84 pints of lifesaving blood. So many people came out that some had to be redirected to other blood drives.
Jaidyn is about to enter a new phase of treatment – a stem cell transplant from one of her four brothers who proved to be stem cell compatible. She’s facing this next challenge with that same Ravenclaw spirit that has brought her through the past several years.
Individuals fighting cancer sometimes require blood or platelet transfusion on a daily basis; they use around 25% of the U.S. blood supply. Blood can be safely donated every eight weeks and has a shelf life of 42 days. Platelets that component of blood that enables it to clot, has a shelf life of only five days and are in constant demand. Only 3% of the U.S. population are currently donors. Please consider becoming a blood or platelet donor – patients like Jaidyn, are counting on you.
To support Jaidyn in her battle with leukemia go to RedCrossBlood.org to find a blood drive near you and make an appointment now.