Imagine graduating from high school, while preparing to enter college, and suddenly during your shift working as a summer lifeguard you start feeling so dizzy that you are sent home. Your mother takes you to see your family physician for blood work, because you are still feeling uncharacteristically weak. When you arrive home, your mother gets a call from the doctor that your blood work was irregular and you must travel to Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health and prepare for a multiple-day stay.
Clare Scheller, 21, doesn’t need to imagine because this was her reality.
“My mom and I both became extremely worried deep down inside,” said Clare, “but we assured one another that it was probably a mistake or some kind of virus that was making my blood counts abnormal.”
Her arrival at Riley was met with various tests and questions.
“I could tell that there was definitely something wrong with me,” said Clare.
After a day of nervous anticipation, Clare was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. At this time, she began chemotherapy treatment.
Unfortunately, Clare’s woes didn’t end there. Pains in her lower left leg caused her to require immediate attention at Riley. Originally, Clare assumed the pains were merely chemo side effects. “As my parents were later told, while I was in a medically induced coma in the intensive care unit,” said Clare, “I had developed a life-threatening infection that was sending my body into septic shock.”
Her doctors realized to restore Clare’s health they would need to remove her leg. However, Clare had lost so much blood her doctors had doubts that Clare would survive surgery. Clare’s parents made the painstaking decision to allow leg amputation surgery to save her.
Gratefully, the surgery was a success. Prior to undergoing the amputation and other related surgeries, Clare relied heavily on blood and platelet transfusions. “These transfusions saved my life,” said Clare. “I would not have survived without them.”
Ultimately, Clare was able to continue her treatment and through rehabilitation she learned to walk again with a prosthetic leg. After spending a total of four months in Indianapolis, Clare was well enough to return home to Evansville. For over a year, she and her parents traveled to Riley Hospital for weekly chemotherapy and blood transfusions. In July 2012, she completed her chemotherapy treatment and is now in remission.
“I continue to visit Riley once a month for blood work and check-ups,” said Clare. “but I’m getting back to an independent lifestyle, with being a full time student.
She attends University of Southern Indiana in Evansville, where she studies public relations and advertising, and is a proud member of the Delta Zeta sorority.
Clare and her family know firsthand the great need for blood and blood donors, and they are committed to spreading the word and putting in the work to pay it forward. Her family has continued to support our life-saving mission by donating blood and promoting blood drives.
In January, Clare’s mother, who works in the College of Nursing and Health Professions at USI, helped students in the Occupational Therapy Assistant program host one of the university’s most successful blood drives to date.
“I would encourage anyone to give blood because there is a constant need for it,” said Clare. “Kids and young adults, like me, are getting diagnosed with cancer every day, and blood is a critical part of our treatment.”
Follow the Scheller family’s stellar example and visit DonorPoint.org to schedule an appointment to Raise Your Sleeve.