Audriana Coogle’s legs felt heavy. The 11-year-old woke one morning to find they were swollen and red. She couldn’t stand up or walk. She couldn’t get out of bed.
Doctors chalked it up to the then-11-year-old playing too hard and told her parents to ice her legs and keep her home from school. A pediatrician suggested it could be arthritis.
But that didn’t make sense. Audriana didn’t have just swollen legs — her stomach was upset, and she was spitting up blood.
“We had no clue what was going on,” said Audriana’s mother, Aster, a surgery tech at Adventist Health Tehachapi Valley. “But you trust your doctors.”
That was 11 years ago, before Audriana visited a new primary care physician who asked for an extensive medical history and uncovered a congenital heart defect Audriana had when she was an infant. Her new primary care physician also insisted on sending Audriana to a gastrointestinal specialist, Dr. Robin Matuk, who cares for patients at Adventist Health Bakersfield.
A routine endoscopy that ordinarily took about 20 minutes lasted more than three hours. Matuk arranged for air transport to a children’s hospital in Los Angeles, where physicians identified a host of health issues. Audriana had portal vein thrombosis — a clot in the vessel carrying blood from the liver to the intestines; liver cirrhosis; esophageal and duodenal varices — or enlarged veins in the esophagus; fibromyalgia; and — perhaps most damaging of all — a rare blood disorder called antiphospholipid syndrome.
That blood disorder leads to the formation of blood clots, in many cases in the extremities, explaining Audriana’s swollen legs. Growing up, her various health complications led to internal bleeding. Every hospital visit required a blood transfusion.
“They’d manage it until it stopped,” Audriana said. She’s had almost 10 transfusions in her short lifetime, and every hospitalization brings a concern about whether the facility will have enough of her rare O positive blood.
On at least one occasion when Audriana was hospitalized for more than a week, it took several hours to get the blood required for a transfusion. Audriana’s blood pressure dropped. She felt weak and blacked out.
“It made me worry that this was it,” Audriana said. It’s why she says donating blood often is so critical.
“If I could give blood, I would — I’ve always wanted to, but I can’t,” Audriana said. “So instead, I ask others to do what they can.”
Adventist Health Tehachapi Valley has partnered with Houchin Blood Bank to host a blood drive in Tehachapi in honor of Audriana and to raise awareness of the importance of donating. The blood drive runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 24 at Adventist Health Tehachapi Valley, 1100 Magellan Drive. To sign up, please contact Christina Scrivner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Harold Pierce is communication manager at Adventist Health Tehachapi Valley.