March 18, 2016 7:21 pm
Updated: March 19, 2016 12:41 pm

Kelowna woman’s undiagnosed blood disorder baffles doctors

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Most people never need one in their entire lifetime, but one Kelowna woman has had more than 70 blood tranfusions in the past two years.

“I’ve calculated it and it’s 25 gallons of blood so that’s a lot, it’s 95 litres,” says Kelly Ronahan.

“I get three bags every two weeks so that’s three people, three blood donors to save me every two weeks.”

The 30-year-old woman enjoyed a healthy, active lifestyle until a routine blood test revealed some puzzling numbers.

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“My iron was at zero and then [my doctor] mentioned my hemoglobin was low,” says Ronahan. “I didn’t really know at the time what hemoglobin was so he explained that it was actually just my blood.”

That was two years ago and ever since regular blood transfusions have become a big part of her routine. In fact, it’s a matter of life and death.

“[Without the transfusions] I would go into organ failure and within a month or six weeks I would be dead and I wouldn’t be here,” says Ronahan.

The former Okanagan College student, ballet dancer/teacher says her life is now on hold. Week after week, her body continues to wane, reducing her energy levels.

As her condition deteriorates, Ronahan says doctors still don’t know the cause.

“They’re trying to just keep me going, transfusion to transfusion, and I’m kind of scared to hear about the future because I’m becoming more and more intolerant to blood with every transfusion,” says Ronahan.

Through her years of treatment, she’s learned there is a big need for blood donors.

“There’s been a time where I’ve had to wait for the right type of blood to be available so there was a shortage and I remember that it scared me a lot,” says Ronahan.

The Canadian Blood Services says there is currently a blood donor shortage.

“In the province on B.C., about 2,000 units are needed between now and Easter long weekend. In Kelowna, we have about 350 open appointments,” says Gayle Voyer with Canadian Blood Services.

Voyer says while all blood types help patients, O-negative blood is in particular demand by hospitals because it is the only type compatible with all other blood types.

Urging people to donate blood is a cause Ronahan has dedicated herself to, along with maintaining a positive attitude in the face of her own personal battle.

“There’s a big railing on the hospital hallways and it’s like a ballet bar so… after a transfusion sometimes I’ll go and do the splits. I’m jumping around, honestly, it brings my energy back,” says Ronahan.

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If you want to donate, there is a blood clinic this Saturday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. at the Canadian Blood Services clinic at Highway 97 and Dilworth Drive in Kelowna. Ronahan says she’ll be at Orchard Park Mall all day encouraging people to head over to the clinic across the street from the mall and donate.

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