The year was 2008 and the event was a banquet celebrating life-saving blood donations from high school students. Among the attendees was a 5-year-old girl in a pink frilly dress named Nina Simone White. Her parents were the guest speakers, sharing their daughter’s story in hopes it would encourage students to continue donating blood and inviting others to do it too.
“Without people donating blood, my daughter probably wouldn’t be alive,” said Nicole White. “Once she turned three years old, she had by then [received] two blood transfusions, and when she turned three, they said she’s susceptible for stroke.”
Then, the unthinkable happened.
“Christmas Eve night, Nina came into the kitchen and she said, ‘Mom, I can’t feel my left hand.’ Our baby girl was having a stroke,” said Ms. White.
On that banquet night in Fort Worth 13 years ago, little Nina Simone and her parents helped Carter BloodCare and the young blood donors present, put a face to sickle cell anemia – an inherited blood disorder affecting about 100,000 Americans – most of whom are of African descent. Blood transfusion is one way of treating the disease but there is no cure.
Patients with sickle cell disease have two copies of an abnormal hemoglobin gene and their red blood cells deform into a sickle shape, rather than the round shape of healthy red cells. The sickled cells can become sticky, clumping in the blood vessels and limiting oxygen flow to organs. These piled-up sickle cells can create severe pain crises, increase the risk of a stroke and cause frequent fatigue. The sickle cells don’t live as long as healthy ones, so the patient is deprived of oxygen-rich blood and energy.
“Nina has to receive blood transfusions indefinitely and never have we walked into the hospital when they said ‘We don’t have the blood,’ but we understand that can happen if blood is not donated,” said Ms. White.
In November 2019, on the occasion of receiving transfusion number 150, Nina Simone told us she has never experienced the debilitating pain of a sickle cell crisis. She and her mother attribute that to excellent medical care and the blood transfusions Nina receives every four weeks.
Ms. White says Nina Simone is resilient and has an attitude that she is never going to be defeated. Nowhere is that more evident than her scholastic track record during her senior year, 2020-2021. Mom says Nina managed to maintain a 4.0 GPA with AP classes – all during the unknowns of the COVID-19 pandemic and its many distractions.
Numerous blood donors assisted Nina Simone across the stage at her high school graduation May 27, 2021. This fall she will attend the University of Houston and enter its nursing program.
“I think the hope that Nina has is that she will continue to be able to live her life and be a light to all her family and her friends. Hope is a big word for me, because I have hope in loads of things and because I have a lot of faith in God. ‘Hope brings life’ means to me seeing my daughter grow up living a normal life, making mistakes, laughing, crying, enjoying college, finding a wonderful man to marry, having children, just living her life.”
More than 160 transfusions of over 320 pints of blood so far and Nina Simone White is on her way to learning how to save lives in nursing school. This is what a group of committed blood donors can do for one young woman. All the best to you, Nina Simone White.
You can play an important part in creating moments of celebrations like this. Make your appointment now to donate blood this month by calling or texting 800- 366-2834 or schedule online.