John Taylor Collegiate students and staff donated blood on Nov. 15 with a special girl in mind.
The blood drive, which ran from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the school, was put on partly in honour of fellow student Madison Claven-Enns, 15, who lives with aplastic anemia.
Unfortunately, Claven-Enns was not in attendance because it would be detrimental to her health if she had shown up.
"I can’t be in public," Claven-Enns said. "(My white cell count is) really low, so I can catch something."
According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s website, aplastic anemia "is a blood disorder in which the body’s bone marrow doesn’t make enough new blood cells."
Claven-Enns was originally diagnosed with aplastic anemia when she was eight years old. After about 13 months of drug therapy treatment as well as other medications, the disease seemed to have left on its own. But her mother, Stacy Kent, said she knew this type of disease requires a bone marrow transplant in order to be completely gone.
Claven-Enns spent the next five years in remission, and she and Kent thought maybe they were done with aplastic anemia. But not long afterwards, Claven-Enns started getting red dots on her legs and dark circles under her eyes.
"I sort of knew," Kent, who is also vice-principal at John Taylor Collegiate, said.
As a result, Claven-Enns began the preparatory regimen for a bone marrow transplant as well as radiation and chemotherapy. She received the bone marrow on June 19 this year. Unfortunately, it didn’t work.
Although Claven-Enns was not present at the blood drive, she said she was touched by everyone’s support.
"I feel really grateful that they did that. I just wanted to say thank you to anyone who donated blood," Claven-Enns said.
"It means a lot to her," said Kent. "She’s had over 50 blood transfusions since April this year, so that’s a lot of blood from people. Each transfusion is two bags of blood. It takes quite a few people to support her."
Among the donors was Melanie Paragg, the school’s Youth in Philanthropy advisor and science and student services teacher. Paragg said the blood drive was more meaningful to the students now that they knew someone who was on the receiving end.
"When students can make that personal connection, it affects them even more. When they can put a name and face to the issue, there was a bigger connection. We had students wanting to help," Paragg said.