At just 11 years old, Kyra Wilson, is no stranger to blood transfusions. Kyra was born with Sickle Cell Anemia, a blood disorder that affects her red blood cells. “I really didn’t even know exactly what Sickle Cell was, until I found out Kyra had it,” explains mom, Karen Wilson.
11-year-old Kyra Wilson
“We had a boy that I went to school with that had it, but no one would ever tell us what was wrong with him. He would just scream, but nobody ever told us why he was doing it. We thought he was just acting out and wanting to go home. It got real when we started seeing the ambulance coming to the school to get him. A lot of people have heard of Sickle Cell, but don’t know what it is,” Karen explains.
Blood donation is personal to the Wilson family; it is what keeps Kyra alive and healthy. After having a stroke at just 6 years old, Kyra started receiving blood transfusions every three weeks to decrease the chance of reoccurrence. Sickle Cell crisis is the term used when the blood vessels are blocked by the sickle shaped red blood cells; patients often describe the massive pain as feeling like being “stabbed.”
Kyra’s battle with sickle cell has been hard fought, but her mom describes her as “a tough little cookie.” Kyra was only 6-years old when she had her gallbladder and appendix removed, both damaged by sickle cell. During the summer in 2015, doctors also had to remove her spleen, due to enlargement caused by sickle cell.
Doctors originally said Kyra would need a stem cell transplant to cure her of sickle cell. Like most patients, Kyra did not have a match in her family. The Wilson family turned to Be The Match® for help. “We held several drives back to back, we had a lot of people register, but no one matched.” Patients typically find their match from someone of the same race as them, which shares similar ancestry. Black and African-American patients have a more difficult time finding a matching donor, due to there not being enough donors in the registry. Kyra’s doctors searched for a matching donor for 2 ½ years before deciding to change her course of treatment, due to her age.
“Right now her numbers are looking good,” says Karen. “She still gets blood every three weeks, but her doctors are considering extending it to four weeks.” Kyra has become a champion for blood donation and Sickle Cell awareness. The Wilson family frequently sponsors blood drives and Kyra is the poster child for the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America, Inc., Northwest Louisiana Chapter. Being the only child in her school with Sickle Cell, Kyra has taken it upon herself to educate her classmates. “She tells her friends what Sickle Cell is, what happens when she gets sick, what it affects. She was like, ‘let me explain what this is’,” says a very proud mom. “I was just peeking in the door. She’s doing her own public education,” she continued.
“It is important for people to donate,” says Karen, “Kyra wants to be a hematologist, blood donors are helping make that dream a reality.”