Author: Matt Philipps, Marketing Specialist – San Diego Blood Bank
When you meet 10-year-old Gabriella Martinez—Ella, for short—the first thing you will likely notice is her bright smile. Behind that smile are thousands of generous donors who provide the blood supply Ella needs. She has a blood disorder called beta thalassemia major that requires lifesaving blood each month from organizations like the San Diego Blood Bank.
Erica, Ella’s mom, didn’t know she carried the thalassemia trait until she was pregnant with twins. Still, the twins did not exhibit thalassemia—a blood disorder that impacts how the body makes hemoglobin—during their newborn screenings. But then little Ella began to miss her regular growth milestones.
“Ella doesn’t make any healthy red blood cells,” her mom said. “She wasn’t growing and had yellow skin and low energy.” At the suggestion of her caring doctors, baby Ella began receiving blood transfusions and started to improve. While Ella’s condition was difficult for her mom and family—and for her twin brother who constantly asks how she’s feeling—it also opened doors. Ella has encountered many health professionals in her young life—from nurses to physicians to medical specialists and technicians.
But she also became curious about the blood she was receiving.
While at Comic-Con one year, mom and Ella saw the annual Robert A. Heinlein Blood Drive. Ella asked her mom if they could visit the blood donors there.
“It was such a great experience for all of us—we haven’t stopped since then,” said Ella’s mom. “That was the first time I felt something positive. It was a major turnaround in looking at Ella’s condition in an optimistic way.”
Ella calls blood “beautiful.” And donors who meet her feel the beauty in the process too. Ella often visits blood drives or donor centers to thank the courageous people who help her stay healthy.
Seeing the impact Ella has on other people—blood donors, friends and family, medical professionals—helps keep the Martinez family strong. Erica says that her family must be ambassadors for blood donation and all the medical professionals who help with it.
“Ella needs the blood,” Ella’s mom said. “She needs it.”
Through it all, Ella continues to brighten the room with her radiant smile. And thanks to everyone who contributes, Ella has shared her light with hundreds of people in the community over the years.
Thousands of San Diegans require lifesaving blood transfusions—from accident victims to cancer patients and those with chronic blood disorders. The need for blood is ongoing, critical and dependent on human generosity.
January is National Blood Donor Month, and the need for blood is critical at this time of year. Learn more about blood donation and make your appointment to save a life today by visiting SanDiegoBloodBank.org.