Ever since he can remember, 14-year-old Landon Kennedy has been fighting against Crohn’s disease.
Diagnosed at 18 months and given a colostomy bag at 3 years old, Landon has been through multiple scopes, procedures and surgeries to remove intestines and even received a bone marrow transplant, as the disease causes inflammation of the digestive tract, leading to severe diarrhea, fatigue, malnutrition and a host of other symptoms. On top of that, a mutation called IL-10 provides even more complications, affecting his body’s response to pathogens.
With Landon’s body struggling to retain iron, vitamin B12 and vitamin D, he has required multiple blood transfusions over the course of his life, which makes the fact that Blood Donor Day in St. Joseph on Wednesday, Aug. 8, is actually dedicated to him.
“Landon’s been through a lot. Before even his bone marrow transplant he was just in and out of the hospital for most of his life,” his mother, Christine Ward, says. “Without those donors, I wouldn’t have him. It helped us get through the process and he’s better now than he ever has been, so it’s an absolute honor.”
Such a disease meant that the 14-year-old would grow up in and out of hospitals, and symptoms such as chronically low sodium led to some rather atypical, albeit slightly amusing, moments for the child when he was younger.
“When I was really sick, I used to take salt and pour it in my hand and just eat it, because it gave me energy,” Landon chuckled. “After eating it, I could do a couple things, then I’d go back to laying on the couch.”
Other moments were more alarming. Ward remembers bringing her son into the hospital for several blood transfusions to keep him going, and his last transfusion in September led to doctors discovering that his hemoglobin — a protein in red blood cells used for carrying oxygen throughout the body — count was severely lacking.
“After I had heard that it was so low, I knew what was going on, because at school I play basketball in the mornings, and before I got the infusion, I was always tired,” Landon says.
But thanks to his family, doctors, nurses and a host of what he hopes will be lifelong friends, Landon has been able to adjust to his situation. He’s loves online video games and enjoys playing basketball any chance he can get.
And when it comes to the blood drive held in his honor, he and his mother say they are both honored by the event.
“These donors, they may not realize that they’re possibly saving somebody’s mom, dad, sister, brother, or children,” Ward says. “That alone is a good enough reason to donate.”
She says that Crohn’s disease in particular is a difficult disease, especially considering much of it deals with what she calls “bathroom talk,” which can be an uncomfortable topic to discuss in itself. However, she says if people are unsure if they can donate blood, they should go to the blood drive and see if they can.
Because if they are able to give blood, it may end up saving someone’s life.
Someone like Landon.
“I just want to thank all the donors and people who help out,” he says. “I want to thank the nurses and doctors for everything they do. It’s very much appreciated.”
The blood drive will be held from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Aug. 8 in the center court area of the East Hills Shopping Center, 3702 Frederick Blvd. Donors will receive two free Royals tickets and be entered into a raffle for East Hills Shopping Center gift cards.