Mia McPoland, a 12-year-old from Chandler, is turning her struggle with an extremely rare disorder into a mission to increase blood and bone marrow donation throughout the state. As an infant, McPoland was diagnosed with Diamond Blackfan anemia, a rare inherited bone marrow failure syndrome that causes her to not produce red blood cells. As a result, she has received monthly blood transfusions since her diagnosis, while she also deals with Turner syndrome.
As an activist, the spunky student works with several local nonprofits, as well as serves as an honorary assistant coach for the Phoenix Mercury women’s basketball team, to raise awareness for the causes so close to her and her family. She has been hosting blood drives since she was in kindergarten and is an activist for organizations Be the Match, HopeKids, Camp Soaring Eagle, and PeppedUp!
Besides donating blood every 50 days to help patients like McPoland, you can show support by participating in the September Champ 5K on Saturday, September 19, to benefit children’s cancer causes. The event will also feature a blood drive — visit www.septemberchamp.org for more information.
Read on to learn more about McPoland, and you can check out a video where she names her five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley.
What brought you to Arizona?
I was born here. I’m going into seventh grade at Santan Junior High school.
What is Diamond Blackfan anemia, and what is living with it like?
When I was 6 weeks old, I was diagnosed with Diamond Blackfan anemia, where you do not make any red blood cells at all. It’s something you’re diagnosed with during the first year of life. It’s not a disease, it’s a disorder, that is not contagious.
Once a month, I go to the hospital to get a blood transfusion. There is no cure, and I’m currently a part of the Be the Match bone marrow program in hopes of getting a bone marrow transplant, though nothing is a guarantee. None of my sisters are matches for me, so I’m still waiting.
What is Turner syndrome?
I don’t grow as quickly as other people do, so I take a shot to help me grow.
What is your involvement like with all the organizations you work with?
They’re all amazing. The Phoenix Mercury won the 2014 WNBA Championship. They were looking for an “assistant coach” and chose me to help raise awareness for bone marrow match donation.
For Be the Match, my goal is to find a match and to be cured of DBA. With Camp Soaring Eagle, I’ve attended a couple times. With PeppedUp!, my goal is to help raise money for the organization, so they can buy electronics for kids. PeppedUp! is amazing, and I love what they do. With HopeKids, my goal is to get as many kids as I can into their organization, which is so awesome because they put on fun events for the whole family.
We host a lot of blood drives, because if we didn’t, not a lot of kids would have blood. Every unit of blood helps, so we try to host as many blood drives as we can and have been doing it for several years.
What advice do you have for kids with life-threatening illnesses?
Do the best you can. It’s part of life, so the only thing you can do is go through the medicine and procedures with a smile. It’s for a reason — you don’t have it because you’ve done anything bad; you have it because you can handle it. You can have more friends and learn about all these great organizations and get to do fun stuff. Live with a smile.
Why would you encourage people to donate blood?
It’s so important to donate blood and is pretty easy. Every three seconds, somebody needs a blood transfusion, whether they’re in a car accident, are in surgery or have DBA. When you donate blood, you’re sharing your life, and that is really important and good. Kids like me and other people need it to live. People should donate right now. In Arizona, the state needs 500 blood donors a day to keep hospitals running.
What do you do for fun?
I go to school. I play with my sisters and my friends and talk on the phone.
What are your goals?
When I grow up, I would like to be a child life specialist. Let’s say I’m going into surgery, and I’m very scared. The child life specialist would come in and help calm me down, and give advice and say encouraging words to help me get through the surgery. They’re really nice, and it’s basically playing with kids in the hospital.
I really want to do it because I can relate to them and give them the best advice I can if they’re scared. I can maybe tell them a story of what it was like when I was a kid and help them get through the day.
Learn more about PeppedUp! founder Ron Haberle here on Phoenix People.