During the end of my senior high school year, my health started to go a bit out of control.
Growing up in a small town outside of Buffalo, NY, I was active in music and many sports to fight complete boredom. This included snowboarding during the winter and soccer year round. I was on a select soccer team called, TEAM Germania. We practiced all year indoors training for the summer travel season. I was so happy that summer was right around the corner and couldnï¿½t wait to travel. It was our first soccer tournament of the year where I noticed there was something very wrong with me. We had played three games and had a lunch break. Along with the warm weather, comes mosquitoes and I had a nasty mosquito bite. I scratched it enough to cause it to bleed, and it wouldnï¿½t stop. I applied pressure and still nothing. I felt a little freakish, and kind if just kept applying pressure both ignoring the constant bleeding and hoping it would stop. That was one of the first signs that my body gave me that something was not right.
As a typical teenager, I ignored it and went back to the soccer tournament. After two more games, my friend Olivia and I headed back to my house to get ready for another friends graduation party. I couldnï¿½t believe it, high school was over and I really had no ideal what road I was going to chose. Although I just wanted to pursue music, my mother who is a high school guidance counselor wasnï¿½t going to have it. So, I was considering a few different education options. As I was taking a quick shower, I noticed a huge dark purple bruise on my right hip. It really looked like something was going to hatch and I couldnï¿½t help but wonder how I got it. I didnï¿½t remember hurting myself or taking any falls during the soccer game that would have caused such a bruise. I got dressed, ran downstairs and showed my friend Olivia the horrible bruise. We then quickly noticed red dots (broken capillaries) all over my legs. It was then I became very concerned and scared. I didnï¿½t know what was wrong with me and I certainly did not want to go to a party until I did. I called my doctor and he asked, ï¿½Do you feel nauseous? Do you have a fever?ï¿½ I replied, ï¿½No.” He agreed to see me Monday, which was too long for me to find the answer to what was wrong with me.
Olivia and I went to my best friendï¿½s graduation party and I immediately found my mom and showed her what was wrong. She suggested a type of blood disorder and that we go to the E.R. My mom and I immediately went to the Emergency Room. After going to the hospital, I was admitted into the I.C.U. for an urgent blood platelet transfusion. I felt fine, but apparently only had 1,000 blood platelets. The average person has between 100,000 and 300,000. Under 30,000 you are bleeding to death. I did not have had enough platelets to clot my blood; hence the mosquito bite wouldnï¿½t stop bleeding. It really was a miracle that I didnï¿½t drop dead on the soccer field. The craziest thing is that I felt great the whole time. After the transfusion and going in and out of consciousness, I awoke in a hospital room with my mother on my side.
Naturally your body rejects what is foreign and I was pumped full of someone elseï¿½s blood platelets. I spent the next week lying in the hospital bed, getting my blood taken every hour to check my count. I started to feel like a pin cushion, and my fear of needles turned into something of the past. To rule out other medical conditions, I got a scan of my body and was put on a high dosage of prednisone steroids. I went from being a healthy teenager to gaining over 15 pounds and being sentenced to no contact. That meant no soccer, no sports, no anything with any chance of getting hurt. Worst off, I really felt ugly, fat and depressed. I was hemophiliac and diagnosed with a blood platelet/bruising disorder called I.T.P, (idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura). After a week of hospital care, my blood count got up to 45,000 and I was released on the condition that I go back weekly to get my blood platelet count checked.
A few weeks went by and everything seemed good. Sure, I was a lot fatter, had acne as a side effect from the steroids, emotional (another side effect) and everywhere I went people asked me if I was okay. They were being polite, because it looked like I was abused. I had bruises everywhere. If you jokingly punched me, a bruise would happen. I wasnï¿½t allowed to really do anything, except hang out in a safe environment and play music. Thank God for good friends and music.
About a month went by and then things got scarier. My mom called me down to the kitchen and she was crying. I had to be strong one so she wouldnï¿½t breakdown. She sat me down and told me that my count dropped and they wanted to re-admit me into the hospital, but first they wanted to rule out cancer. I took the news like a champ, assuring her everything was going to be OK and that I felt fine. Then went to my room, started crying and praying. The very next day was the Vans Warped Tour, and like every other teenager I was planning on going. I promised my mom to stay out of the mosh pit and that Iï¿½d be on time for my bone marrow test. The bone marrow test really sucked, but also they do numb you a lot so itï¿½s bearable. It also didnï¿½t help that my mom was like, ï¿½Youï¿½re going to stick that into her?ï¿½ Again, thank God they got the sample of marrow on the first try.
We then had to wait for the answer to the question, do I have cancer? It was the longest amount of time in my life, and the best news at the same time. The results where negative however the doctors still were not sure what was wrong with me. The doctors had a new procedure they recommended similar to chemo (IV drip) to possibly cure me. Even though I felt like a guinea pig, I would have tried anything. I just wanted my health back. When I had the treatment I felt so blessed and had a lot of questions. Why am I so lucky to not have cancer? I knew I had to make a difference to give these people who had gotten the answer yes to there questions some hope. I didnï¿½t know how, but also I never let go of that promise.
It wasnï¿½t until almost six years later that I understood why everything happened to me. Upon meeting my manager Russ Hornbeek, I learned about his work experience and knowledge of the American Red Cross. I knew we met because we where going to make a difference and the ideal of Music Saves Lives started. Due to my past and Russel having sons of his own we knew that teaming up with the Vans Warped Tour was a great way reach high school and college students. With the help of MySpace and bands getting involved we have saved over thousands of lives. The program started in southern California and is now national. Although I am the co-founder, Russel has really made this program what it is with his dedication. We have a lot of talented people involved who are willing to sacrifice their time to make a difference. Personally, I have two roles: I am the Official Spokesperson of the program and my marketing company (that I co-own with one of my best friends Chelsea) donates all design and marketing to the program. As a spokesperson, I go and speak to high school and college students to help educate them on the importance of donating blood. I let people know that if someone else didnï¿½t do such a simple task as donating blood, I would not be here alive today. If we have more blood resources people could go through chemo quicker and have it be less painful. The list of why itï¿½s important to donate blood just starts there.
To get involved please go to www.musicsaveslives.org