Blood donors have given an Okotoks girl the chance to have a normal life, and now she and her family are looking to helping others who need to receive blood to live.
A blood donor clinic will be held at Holy Trinity Academy on Oct. 7 from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. The event was organized by the family of Okotoks youth Brienna Ball, along with Canadian Blood Services.
In 2013, Brienna received a rare diagnosis of common variable immunodeficiency (CVID). For people with the condition, their bodies are not able to create enough antibodies to fight off infections, meaning even a common cold can be a life threatening situation.
The 11-year-old receives blood infusions every three days to get antibodies her body does not have to help fight off illnesses.
“It kind of tricks Bri’s body into thinking she has those, so it gives her a chance to fight,” said her mother Melissa Ball.
She said the clinic was planned as a way for the family to give back.
Brienna requires regular blood infusions in order to live a normal life.
She had been sick for most of the first nine years of her life.
“Brienna would get a cold and it would become life threatening, we would be going to the hospital all the time for support for her to breath and so forth,” she said.
Melissa said Brienna missed a lot of school and had lagged behind in some areas because of the condition.
She said it’s not something that children are regularly checked for, and is easily missed. Blood samples had to be sent to the Mayo Clinic in the U.S. to be tested, and the results came back positive.
Melissa has seen a complete turn-around in her daughter after starting treatment.
She said she would watch the colour return to her cheeks during the procedure.
“She looked more alive and she was able to start putting weight on,” said Melissa.
The changes in the first three months were dramatic. Brienna went the entire period without having a cold or a cough and in the first year she had one cold that lasted for three days.
Prior to her diagnosis and treatment, she said she often felt sick.
“It was hard to go to school because my tummy was always hurting and I couldn’t move my joints sometimes, I would always cough a lot,” she said.
Brienna used to receive monthly blood plasma infusions at a hospital. They are now able to do the infusion at home.
She looks forward to her infusions. She said she can feel a change almost immediately after she receives an infusion.
“Whenever we do the infusions, I always look forward to it because I know that I’ll feel better because of it,” said Brienna.
She said it’s good to know people care enough about helping others to donate blood.
Giving back is important to the Ball family.
Melissa said one of the ways her daughter has come to terms with her diagnosis is by helping Canadian Blood Services raise awareness. She is also donating her time.
“This is Brienna’s first job, she’s a recipient speaker with Canadian Blood Services and that was her way of trying to cope with her diagnosis and trying to give back,” she said.
Melissa and her husband became regular blood donors after their daughter was diagnosed.
“It’s something you don’t think about and you take for granted, but it wasn’t until this came about that we decided to become donors,” she said.
People will need to book an appointment to donate at the Okotoks clinic. There are still approximately 35 spaces available. Bookings can be made online at blood.ca, through the Give Blood app or by phone at 1-888-236-6283.
While all blood types are needed and all eligible donors to get involved, there is currently a specific need for O negative blood.