Normalcy is kind of a funny concept, something that fluctuates with people and circumstances and is often defined by the small routines in life. Consider the morning routine, which is defined the little habits like showering, tooth brushing, drinking a cup of hot cocoa from the “Little Mermaid” mug followed by a morning, or at least weekly, trip to the grocery store to restock on milk and soap.
And that leads to 10-year-old Chandler girl Mia McPoland, whose state of normalcy involves plucking the I.V. from her arm after every blood transfusion — now totaling 100 in her young life — at Cardon Children’s Medical Center in Mesa.
“It’s just part of our life now; we don’t know anything else,” said Mia’s mom Kristi.
Mia hit the century mark on Aug. 29 at the hospital she has visited once a month since she was 6 weeks old. It was back then when Kristi brought her daughter, who was also born at Cardon, to a doctor after she noticed her daughter looked ashen.
The doctor ended up drawing some blood for testing, and the McPoland women left for home to wait for the results.
“By the time I got home, I literally had five messages waiting for me,” Kristi said of the messages of warnings about her daughter’s excessively low hemoglobin count. “If we had waited, she would have died.”
It’s usually a good thing when someone is considered one in a million: for Mia, the phrase has a less than positive connotation rooted in the incredible rarity of her diagnosis of Diamond Blackfan anemia, which the Boston Children’s Hospital website states is found in five to seven children per million.
Diamond Blackfan anemia is considered life threatening because it inhibits the body’s ability for bone marrow to produce red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body, according to the Center for Disease Control, and is treatable with monthly blood transfusions and corticosteroids.
Fortunately, fate opted not to make Mia’s life utterly unlucky, as her A-positive blood type is conducive to four different types of blood.
“We couldn’t say thank you enough to people who donate blood; otherwise, she wouldn’t be alive,” Kristi said.
So they’ve gone to Cardon every three to four weeks since and have squared off against the inherent discomforts of hospitals — even ones designed for children possess a scintilla of intimidation — to keep her alive.
All things considered, the process is kind of boring for the Christmas loving girl with a slight adoration for Taylor Swift. She sits on one of the hospital beds with the bag of blood at her side emptying into her body, and stays there with a toy picked from Cardon’s closet, a cell phone and a number of people to text with to survive the waiting.
“It’s become normal; I like the nurses, I like the food and I like the way they treat me. They treat me like I’m their favorite one,” she said.
Like parents, nurses won’t necessarily make such declarative statements about their young patients, but it’s clear the staff at Cardon does possess much affection for the frequent visitor. Nurse and birthday buddy — they share the 19th of this month — Christine Jorgensen is effusive in the praise she has for Mia, calling her “one of the sweetest Christian young ladies you’ll ever meet.”
“I just love her,” she said.
The acclaim Jorgensen, who has worked with Mia since the first transfusion almost 11 years ago, showered on Mia has roots in the girl’s character, highlighted by an inherent level of kindness and appreciation for others despite spending much of her life as the center of attention.
Take the events of the 29th as an example, when men with cameras large and small visited her and two of her teachers took time off to visit her in the hospital. The girl appeared to treat the hoopla as another day at the hospital, and she even gave the purple Skittles to one of her teachers because Mia knew they are her favorite.
Jorgensen also credited Mia for her maturity in the way she’s handled the difficult situation. In lieu of letting it control her, Jorgensen said Mia copes with the monthly transfusions as if they were another bump in the proverbial road.
“She’s had to grow up fast; all of our kids do,” she said.
Transfusion number 100 wasn’t treated like the other transfusions, though; the Skittles mentioned above were a special treat, as were the copious amounts of Dutch chocolate ice cream bestowed upon her as she sat and waited.
A special surprise to Mia and Kristi came later in the form of a performance of “Cups” by the nursing staff. The words were altered to fit Mia’s situation, and the serenade came with the requisite cup trick, although Jorgensen admitted she had issues moving the cups while singing at the same time.
Something left unsaid, at least for the moment, is the reminder the 100th transfusion will not be Mia’s final one, and probably not by a long shot either. Bone marrow or stem cell transplantation are theoretical options, but the current technology requires a perfect match that Mia doesn’t have, meaning the transfusions will remain a staple of her monthly activities.
So Mia will continue to be a Cardon regular, will keep performing at the hospital’s Christmas show — the girl has an affinity for singing — and will stay close to Jorgensen as they celebrate more birthdays together. Mia could stay around the hospital even longer if she decides to become a nurse herself — Jorgensen provided a ringing endorsement for that idea — that would give her a way to help transform fear into normalcy for her own crop of kids.
“I just think it’d be fun,” she said.