Community Bleeds For Little Girl

By Jenny Lee Rice
Staff Writer

When 2-year-old Kenna Coerper had several bruises on her legs that wouldn’t go away, her parents became worried. Her mother, Adrienne Coerper, called her pediatrician, who said he wanted to see Kenna immediately.

That was March 8.

One month later, Kenna has been diagnosed with a rare condition called aplastic anemia, which means her body does not want to produce red or white blood cells or platelets. She has been in and out of Miller Children’s Hospital in Long Beach, having received intense drug treatment and several red blood cell and platelet transfusions (white blood cells can not be transfused).

Kenna’s aunt, Barbara Bartee, recalled the first time Kenna needed a platelet transfusion.

“They didn’t have enough at the hospital,” she said. “She’s A-Positive. (They) had to give her A-Negative.”

Bartee, who works at Fysicly Fit in Naples, told some friends about her niece. When asked how they could help, she said, “Give blood.”

The response has been enormous. People throughout Long Beach and Orange County (where the Coerpers live) have donated for the little girl. Kenna’s mother Adrienne described a recent hospital visit, where she said she was “floored” by the outpouring of support.

“There were two people who I didn’t even know donating,” she said.

The shortage of platelets for Kenna is not an isolated problem, said Dr. Emanuel Ferro, director of the blood bank at Memorial Hospital (with which Miller Children’s Hospital is affiliated).

“Blood of all types is in constant need,” he said.

Ferro pointed to increased demand — that more treatments require blood transfusions and the aging of the nation’s baby boomers — and decreased eligibility due to heavy screening as the causes of the shortage.

“The process has gotten quite complicated,” he said.

To be eligible to donate blood, one must by 18 years old (or 17 with parental permission), weigh at least 110 pounds and be in good health. A lengthy questionnaire helps determine that this last criterion is met, he said.

The actual blood donation process only takes a few minutes, Ferro said, although subjects can expect to be at the hospital for about an hour.

“Platelet donation,” he explained, “is a little bit different.”

During this process, the blood is drawn but only the platelets are extracted.

“The process takes a bit longer — usually an hour or an hour and a half,” Ferro said.

Kenna came home from the hospital this Tuesday, after her drug treatment ended.

“Now it’s kind of a wait-and-see thing,” said Bartee, Kenna’s aunt.

The doctors should know in six months whether Kenna is cured. In the meantime, her family is keeping an eye on her to make sure the “very active” toddler does not injure herself.

“We just don’t go to the park anymore,” her mother Adrienne said. “We don’t go to the mallŠ Kenna and I are just kind of homebodies now.”

Kenna also will return to Miller Children’s Hospital every week for any necessary blood cell and platelet transfusions. Her family expects her to need transfusions for at least the next six months, and hope the community will continue to donate.

“We need people to go now and people to go later,” said Bartee. “There’s a shortage of blood in the hospital anyway. They need blood always.”

To make an appointment to donate blood or platelets, call 933-0810.

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