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Release of Likeness

Multiple transfusions saved Sophia’s life as she battled a condition that prevented her bone marrow from producing blood cells. In gratitude, she and her family organize Sophia’s Strength community blood drives to honor her courage and help others.

It was the summer of 2009 and Sophia was living life to the fullest. A fun-loving 12-year-old who loved clothes, dogs, her family, and texting and hanging out with her friends. That is until she landed in Room 8141 of Minneapolis Children’s Hospital with what doctors finally diagnosed as severe aplastic anemia (SAA).

“My adventure began on July 7th when I went for a routine well-child exam,” Sophia remembers. “Everything seemed perfectly normal. I got my scheduled vaccinations. My blood was drawn and sent off to the lab. And I headed for home. That evening, however, my doctor called with the lab results that indicated all of my blood counts were low—my white cells, red cells, and platelets.” Following her doctor’s direction, Sophia’s blood counts were monitored for the next three weeks. And after a final doctor’s visit that gave her the green light, she and her family headed to their cabin in northern Minnesota to enjoy the warmth of summer and spend time together swimming and playing. Unfortunately, the carefree celebration came to an abrupt end just two weeks later when Sophia began bleeding and was taken immediately to the local hospital in Brainerd. In the emergency room, with results from a complete blood work-up in hand, Sophia and her family faced the difficult news. She recalls, “My blood was way low. The lab test showed a white blood count of 800. My hemoglobin was 8.1, when it should have been at least over 10. Plus, I had absolutely no platelets that they could find. I also noticed a lot of bruising and I was really, really tired.”

Rushed by ambulance the 135 miles back to Minneapolis Children’s Hospital, “I was really bummed that I got no lights, no siren,” Sophia laughs. But that same night, what Sophia did receive was multiple life-saving transfusions: two of red blood cells and seven of platelets.

Once the results came back from the bone marrow biopsy doctors performed that first night, Sophia was diagnosed with severe aplastic anemia—a life-threatening blood disorder. “Blood consists of basic components,” explained Sophia. “White blood cells fight infection, red blood cells carry oxygen, and platelets control clotting. When all three components are affected, that’s when you get what I’ve got. All of your blood cell counts become really low and your bone marrow becomes sick and can’t produce the healthy blood our bodies need.”

“The thing about SAA is that it can affect anyone, at any age. No one knows for sure what causes it and every one reacts differently to different types of treatment. The only real “cure” is a bone marrow transplant.”

Her brothers were tested as potential donors and with older brother Noah being a positive match, Sophia received her bone marrow transplant in September of 2009. Now a 14-year-old, active 8th grader, she is back in school, still on the honor roll, and recently exhibited in the State Science Fair.

“While I was in the hospital,” Sophia added, “I continued to have multiple transfusions of red blood cells and platelets. And when people would ask what they could do for me and my family, I would ask them to pray for a bone marrow match and, whenever they had the chance, to donate blood and platelets. Now my family and I organize community blood drives to give back—to all the others out there who need blood and whose lives can be saved, like mine, when we donate.”

Find out more about how you can help save the lives of infants, children, and adults through blood donation. Learn more in About Blood.