Advocacy Message from FCCLA member, Breanna Mehlhaf about Aplastic Anemia
Many people often feel like their lives are routine. You wake up in the morning, brush your teeth, head to work or school, come home, go to sleep, and do the same thing over and over again. What if suddenly your day was no longer a healthy, normal routine? Samantha Kinneberg’s life was no longer a routine after one July day when she was diagnosed with Aplastic Anemia: a condition that occurs when the body stops producing enough new blood cells.
Samantha Kinneberg was a normal teenager who enjoyed playing softball, basketball, and volleyball and was an active student at Parkston High School when suddenly she began feeling ill. After many doctor visits and a lengthy stay at the hospital, Sam was diagnosed with this disease. Symptoms of this disease include fatigue, pale skin, unexplained or easy bruising, nosebleeds, prolonged bleeding from cuts, dizziness, and headache. Because many of these symptoms are common symptoms of a cold or common illness; there are many misdiagnoses. To prevent misdiagnosis, people need to be their own advocate when their bodies are telling them that something is wrong.
One of the most frightening statistics is that in approximately 50% of the cases, the cause of aplastic anemia is not known. This frightens many people because they do not know what to do to prevent this from happening to them. However, some of the known causes are radiation, chemotherapy, exposure to toxic chemicals, use of certain medication, autoimmune disorders, viral infection, and pregnancy. Aplastic anemia is not contagious, but in some rare cases, it can be hereditary or passed on to offspring through genes.
Diagnosis of aplastic anemia includes a blood test which reveals low blood cell count of red blood cells, platelets, and white blood cells. After the doctor has seen these results, he may suggest a bone marrow biopsy. A bone marrow biopsy is a test in which the doctor takes a sample of the bone marrow in order to look at it more closely and to see if it is producing the amount of blood cells that it should. If the tests come back positive, then the patient more than likely has aplastic anemia.
Now that the patient has aplastic anemia, what are the options for treatment? To manage the symptoms and to improve blood cell count, the doctor may first do a blood transfusion. Blood transfusions do not cure aplastic anemia, they just manage the symptoms to make the patient feel better. In order to cure the aplastic anemia, the patient would have to proceed with a stem cell transplant (bone marrow transplant.) In this procedure, stem cells which make up bone marrow, are transferred from a matching donor to the patient in hopes that the patient may accept the stem cells and start producing their own blood cells once again. The survival rate for patients under the age of 20 who have undergone a bone marrow transplant is 80%.
You may now be asking yourself, who is at risk for this disease? Does it occur in the young or the old? Aplastic anemia most commonly occurs in people from ages 15-25 and in people over the age of 60. It also commonly occurs in women who are pregnant. Even if these factors and age groups do not include you, you still need to be informed on the facts and symptoms of this disease because it could happen to your grandchildren, children, parents, or grandparents.
Knowing the facts and symptoms of the deadly disease aplastic anemia could potentially save your life or a loved one’s life. Samantha was a healthy, active, young athlete who thought that her routine would continue on like it always had. Little did she know that her routine would be shaken in the twinkling of an eye.

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Roberta Stoebner
Middle School Social Studies Teacher
High School Family and Consumer Sciences Teacher
Family, [[#|Career]], and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) Advisor
[[#|Phone]]: 605-387-5161, ext. 255
FAX: 605-387-5171
E-mail: roberta.stoebner@k12.sd.us
Mailing Address:
Menno Public School
PO Box 346
Menno, SD 57045-0346