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Pomaria, South Carolina

When Hannah went to the hospital last fall because of a rapid heartbeat and unexplained bruises, doctors were so perplexed by her symptoms they weren’t even sure they could treat her.

A bone marrow biopsy the next day determined she had a rare blood disorder known as aplastic anemia. Hannah’s bone marrow wasn’t producing enough new blood cells, putting her at serious risk of life-threatening bleeding or infection.


The diagnosis brought the outgoing 21-year-old’s life to a halt. She had to quit work and school and move back home with her parents, Candace and Todd, in Pomaria, S.C., as she began treatment at Atrium Health's Levine Cancer Institute.

“When you have a family member with a critical illness, they don’t face it alone. It’s a family affair,” Todd said.

When doctors suggested a bone marrow transplant, Hannah’s younger sister, Katie, was ready to step up.

“I knew that, typically, a sibling is the best match,” Katie said. “I said I’ll be the donor, and she’ll be able to have the transplant over Christmas break, and everything will just be good. She’ll be able to live her life again.”

When the hospital called to tell her she was not a match, it was hard for Katie to accept.

“I knew how much my family was counting on my sister getting better, and I felt like that was something I could do to help,” she said.

Undeterred, the family jumped in to the next treatment option. Hannah took a six-month dose of chemotherapy in just four days.

“It basically wiped everything out of my bone marrow so I could start growing new bone marrow,” Hannah said. “I sat in the hospital in what’s called count recovery for over 60 days waiting on my counts to come up.”

The chemo was tough on Hannah, but she is thankful to have a great support system in her friends and family. And they are all thankful for the blood and platelet donors who continue to help Hannah stay strong throughout her treatment.

“You have no idea the amount of blood and platelets that it takes to sustain a person with a blood disorder,” Todd said. “Hannah has had around 150 transfusions. It took someone giving that for her to receive that.”

The blood transfusions help give Hannah energy and strength, and the platelets help stop any bleeding.

“After a blood transfusion, I can feel my energy level go up very, very quickly,” she said. “Just overall, I feel a lot better, I’m not so tired.”

During a recent transfusion at LCI, Hannah’s nurses showed her a special tag on the unit of blood she was receiving. The tag was part of the Message My Donor program, a unique way for local patients to send a note to the donor of the blood products they receive.

Hannah was able to go onto the website, type in the code on her tag, and send a message to her own donor. She was excited to have the opportunity to thank someone for their generous gift.

“Even though the tag is anonymous, I think it’s really cool that the donor can be thanked for giving blood or platelets that are saving my life,” she said.

As Hannah prepares to undergo a bone marrow transplant later this year, she and her family continue to encourage others to donate. Transfusions will likely play a vital role in that course of treatment as well.

“People need blood and platelets every day,” Hannah said. “You’re saving people’s lives.”

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