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All for Ellie: Family, friends host blood drive for 12-year-old with rare disorder

MORGANTOWN — Without donated blood, Ellie Thornton wouldn’t be alive today.

The 12-year-old girl was diagnosed with Severe Aplastic Anemia, which affects the body’s ability to produce blood cells. According to Ryan Edsall, account manager of donor recruitment for The American Red Cross, blood is needed every two seconds. One unit of blood can save up to three lives.

That’s why in Ellie’s honor, people came together Monday at the Mountaineer Mall to donate their own blood to save lives.

“What’s really special about this, as an organizer, they sent us a list of 100 people and we had 91 people signed up this morning,” Edsall said. “They had most of those signed up within a week of setting the blood drive up. That actually never happens.”

Edsall said the Thorntons have a great support system of family and friends. According to Edsall, 13,000 units of blood need to be collected in the U.S. daily to meet demand.

Sondra Thornton, Ellie’s mother, said Severe Aplastic Anemia is a disorder of bone marrow and an autoimmune disorder. Essentially, Ellie’s immune system is attacking blood cells almost immediately after they’re created in bone marrow.

“In order for her to go through her immunosuppressive therapy and receive treatment, Ellie relies on blood and platelets that are in the blood bank,” she said.

Ellie’s doctor connected her with another family who had a daughter with the same diagnosis. Sondra said the family was very supportive and knew what she and her family were going through.

“It’s a very rare disease. It’s one to two per million diagnosed with this,” she said.

One of the things the family the Thorntons connected with did in their daughter’s honor was host a blood drive. Sondra said that’s what she had to do, given she was stuck in the diagnosis and frustrated.

“I reached out to my awesome friends, and they helped me organize this. They volunteered their time. They delivered food to our door. They did all these things to just lift us up and support us,” Sondra said.

In conjunction, Be the Match joined in on the blood drive. With a mouth swab, someone can have their bone marrow tested. Having a bone marrow transplant is a potential treatment for Ellie. However, she does not have a perfect match. Her siblings do not match, so her family will have to look in the bone marrow registry.

When asked how it felt to see such an outpouring of support she said it was overwhelming.

“We’re so thankful to this community. I mean, they delivered meals. Prayed for us. Lifted us up. It’s incredible,” she said.

You can keep up with Ellie on her TeamEllie Facebook page. Sondra also encourages everyone to get their bone marrow tested. Visit to learn more.

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