16-year old, Wytanna Welch doesn’t let many things slow her down, even Sickle Cell Anemia, an illness she was diagnosed with as an infant. At just 3 years old, Wytanna started receiving blood transfusions every 4 weeks to help manage her illness. “She’s had too many blood transfusions to count,” says mother Nhyesha Shaw.
Wytanna Welch and her younger brother.
“As a mother, it’s a horrible feeling knowing I can’t help her if she’s hurting,” says Nhyesha. “I am so very appreciative of the people who donate; they are what keep her from having sickle cell attacks. They keep her out of the hospital.”
Wytanna has big plans for her future! She wants to become a Sports Therapist, something she is encouraged to do by watching her younger brother play football. Her plan is to go to Southern University in Shreveport, then on to Texas A&M, but without blood donors, Wytanna’ s dream wouldn’t come true.
The Shaw family hopes to encourage more people in the African-American community to become donors, since patients like Wytanna can develop antibodies over time that will only allow them to receive blood from someone of similar ancestry.
The most common reason people won’t give blood is fear. “Don’t be scared,” says Wytanna, “There’s nothing to be afraid of; it’s like getting your ears pierced. Think about a happy place and know you’re doing it for a good cause. Millions of people need help, so know that you’re doing something good and do it.”
Wytanna’s mother Nhyesha adds, “Sit with some of the sickle cell patients, see what they go through, you’ll realize how important this is.” There are approximately 90,000 to 100,000 Americans with Sickle Cell Anemia, so the need for dedicated blood donors is great.
We still have a long way to go to encourage more people to donate blood, but the Shaw family is very grateful to those who donate. Wytanna has a special message to all blood donors: “Thank you, thank you, thank you so much for helping me live the best life ever!”