The Marsh family’s journey began during the summer of 2008. They thought their five-year-old daughter, Hannah had the flu, but it quickly became apparent that it was much more serious. By the time Hannah was rushed to the hospital, her platelet count was 16, and by the afternoon, it fell to 1. Her liver was shutting down, and her spleen was enlarged. She was diagnosed with Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis (HLH), fatal without appropriate treatment. Affecting about one in 1.2 million children, it causes cells to malfunction and destroy the body’s own red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Hannah’s only hope for survival was a bone marrow transplant, which she received the day before her sixth birthday. In the months prior to her transplant, she was completely transfusion-dependent.
Hannah is now a healthy, thriving, 16year-old, and the Marsh family has never forgotten the debt they owe blood donors for their role in saving Hannah’s life. Kelly is a tireless advocate for blood and bone marrow donation. Kelly and Hannah serve as community ambassadors for SCBB, sharing Hannah’s story about how vital blood donors were in saving her life. It is not uncommon to see Kelly in the donor area with someone she has recruited and brought in to donate for the first time.
Kelly has three other children, two of whom became blood donors as soon as they were old enough. They will tell you they do it to support Hannah and others like her who would not be here, if it weren’t for the gift of blood. No doubt, her youngest will donate as soon as she turns 16.
This is a family that chose to take control, and not only conquered, but united to fight for a cause that spares millions of families the heartbreak of losing a loved one.
Fredd and Shelia Atkins are both well-known in Sarasota, their hometown. The Atkins have devoted their lives to their family and community. Both are involved in dozens of community, cultural, economic development and educational organizations.
They are also life-long blood donors. Fredd is up to 17 gallons and Shelia is at 3 gallons. Together, they encourage others to donate, especially the next generation. “We need to educate our children early about the importance of donating blood,” says Shelia. Both Shelia and Fredd are very busy but donating is something they take time for. “If I can find the time, I know you can,” remarks Fredd.
Meet Lakisha and Kaitlin—the next generation of blood donors. They are just a few of the hundreds of high school and college students who donate blood annually. National studies show that most adolescents who donate blood at least three times become donors for life.
Kaitlin and Lakisha are two prime examples. Kaitlin recently graduated from Sarasota Military Academy where she donated blood for the first time in her senior year. Lakisha, a recent graduate of DeSoto High School also began donating blood at a school drive. Both girls received scholarships from SCBB toward their post-secondary education because of their extraordinary service to the community.