Hannah Marsh’s story began in 2008 when she was five years old. She woke up one morning with a severe nosebleed, bruising, and purple spots all over her body. ER doctors found that her platelet count was fatally low and her organs were shutting down. Fortunately, a quick diagnosis showed that Hannah had hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH). HLH affects about one in 1.2 million children and causes an immune system malfunction, destroying red and white blood cells and platelets. She didn’t respond to the treatment, and her only hope of a cure was a bone marrow transplant.
“There was no match in our family or in the entire U.S. We finally got a match in Germany,” said her mom Kelly Marsh. “Hannah received the transplant one day before her sixth birthday, but for all the months leading up to that, she was totally dependent on blood transfusions.” In all, Hannah received more than 400 life-sustaining units of blood and platelets.
Hannah’s older sister Shelby became a blood donor as soon as she was old enough, and the youngest plans to donate as soon as she turns 16. “Before this happened, I really didn’t understand the importance of having a local blood bank that screens and crossmatches the appropriate blood for transfusion as well as having an adequate, safe blood supply within the community,” she said. “I did not have any idea that I personally would go through something like this.”