Tia Carr’s heart is pumping blood that doesn’t protect her. It doesn’t guard her from pneumonia, sinus infections or any other disease. Her heart does, however, swell with gratitude when she sees the community at her blood drives.
“My heart overflows just seeing how much people actually care,” she said, pointing out that she’s not the only one to benefit from her blood drives.
“I only get part of the blood, and the rest goes to other people,” she said. “The one thing I love about my disease is that I can help other people out; it’s not all going to me.”
Carr’s blood needs gamma globulin to boost her immunity, which has suffered from common variable immunodeficiency. Diagnosed when she was 5 years old, Carr has received blood infusions at Rush University Medical Center at close intervals — currently, once every two months. The blood drive for her next infusion is July 12.
In addition to her immunodeficiency, Carr has juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and arthritis of the eyes. She is perpetually sick, infected with pneumonia five times in the last year alone. Despite her struggles, Carr does not consider her illness to be an affliction.
“I feel blessed to have this sickness, because it has made me who I am,” she said. “I’ve made it through hard times, and it turned me into a stronger person.”
“She’s a warrior,” said Tim Harris, who has coached Carr at basketball since third grade. “Her attitude is incredibly positive, and she’s a great example for everybody, myself included.”
When Carr was born, doctors predicted she would be in a wheelchair by 5 years old and blind by 7. Years of practicing lay-ups in her driveway and tearing across the basketball court have proven these estimates false. Although Carr is often too sick to play during games, Harris says she has made an immense impact on her teammates. In fact, Carr was elected captain of the Oswego High School basketball team during her senior year.
“Team captain is usually reserved for starters, but Tia was chosen because her teammates respect her to such a high degree,” he said. “She always tried as hard as she could — whether it was practice or JV games.”
Harris recounts one junior varsity game that showed Carr’s determination.
“There were a couple seconds left on the clock,” he said. “She took five steps back from the three-point line and took a shot that won the game. There were probably 15 people in the stands, but she didn’t care about that.”
Carr will apply her can-do attitude at Aurora University this fall. She plans to study applied health science because she wants to help others with medical problems.
“I want to be a chiropractor,” she said. “My health got me interested in that. I feel like there’s a better way to help myself and others, so I want to learn more about the human body.”
Carr has thrived on the basketball court and has big hopes for the future — including a potential career as a motivational speaker — but none of this would be possible without hemoglobin. Her bi-monthly infusions require about 3,500 donors to produce the necessary amount of blood.
Her mother, Lauri Carr, says that blood infusions give her daughter as close to a “normal young adult life” as possible.
“It doesn’t cost anything but your time,” she said. “She is very active — this helps her stay as healthy as possible. What a gift you will give her: a normal, healthy life.”Tags: blood drive, health