SLCA Valentine's blood drive benefits 11-year-old

By By Kara Carrier / American Press

Melissa Richard was fighting back tears

at Southwest Louisiana Charter Academy, which held a blood drive Friday

for her 11-year-old

daughter, Kiarra, who has sickle cell disease.

Richard said she was touched by the

outpouring of support from the school and other parents. Jaqueline

Smith, the school’s

co-principal, said school officials wanted to host the blood drive

because Kiarra needs monthly blood transfusions and because

several other students also have the disease. The school reached

its goal of 15 donations by noon.

“We picked today, Valentine’s Day,

because we thought it was appropriate,” Smith said. “Blood is red;

Valentine’s Day is associated

with red. So we hoped that would encourage people to donate.”

The red blood cells in people with sickle cell disease, an inherited blood disorder, turn from round to crescent-shaped —

blocking blood vessels and depleting oxygen levels and in turn causing excruciating pain and damage to the body.

Richard said she learned Kiarra had the disease at 28 days old; there is no cure for the condition.

“She will be fighting this for the rest

of her life,” she said. “On bad days, the pain really hurts her legs,

like bad arthritis.

She screams and hollers from the pain, and it tears me apart as a


According to Richard, the school’s

blood drive will be helpful in case the blood bank doesn’t have her

blood type when she

needs her monthly blood transfusions. She said Kiarra’s doctors

want to try using blood stem cells, but she doesn’t want to

put her through that at the moment.

“She goes through enough as it is,” Richard said. “When she does go to the hospital, the only thing that can really help her

is morphine, blood transfusions or oxygen.”

Although Kiarra has been through a lot, Richard said she is an active and normal child who loves to read and aspires to be

a nurse.

“But most of all she is a warrior,” she said. “Even the nurses at the hospital feel so bad sometimes seeing her on her low

days, thinking she isn’t going to make it. But give her a couple of days and she is like brand new. She is a fighter.”