Soon after Kayla Ann Jernigan was born, she was diagnosed with sickle cell disease (SCD), a hereditary blood disorder in which abnormally shaped red blood cells cause blockages in the blood vessels. In addition to complications like fatigue, infections and organ damage, these blockages can cause a severe episode called a pain crisis, brought on by a lack of oxygen to nearby tissues. Kayla experienced her first pain crisis when she was just five months old.
Kayla received her first blood transfusion at age 11. Since then, she has received regular blood transfusions every few months. “For us, it’s really vital,” she said. “It’s amazing. I’m (a) 10 times better Kayla. I feel like I can do everything when I have a blood transfusion. I feel like a regular person.”
Now that she is an adult, Kayla works with the Sickle Cell Consortium to educate her community about SCD. Without LifeSouth blood donors, Kayla said life would not have been possible. “If I was unable to get a blood transfusion, my life would have been so totally different,” she said. “I don’t think I would have made it.”