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News 8 viewers increase blood supply to help 5-year-old girl fighting leukemia

Karina Willis, a 5-year-old girl from San Diego fighting leukemia has had blood transfusions delayed due to a nationwide blood shortage.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — One of News 8’s Your Stories that aired last week grabbed our viewers’ attention.

Ever since News 8 viewers saw Karina Willis’ story, they've been inspired to donate blood. Even the U.S. Marshals Service set-up their own mobile blood drive in her honor.

“I saw this little, bubbly girl that when she is not sick, she is having a good time and I felt really bad that she had to hold off on transfusions that would allow her to feel good,” said Steven Stafford, U.S. Marshal for the Southern California District.

Karina fought leukemia and relied on A positive blood transfusions to stay in remission, but a nationwide blood shortage has delayed her treatments and other patients as well.

“Basically, we had to wait 24-hours for blood,” said Rick Willis, Karina’s father.

The San Diego Blood Bank says because of the pandemic they have had as many mobile blood drives leading to the lowest blood supply in decades.

“Now we are in a situation where a good number of our mobile drives are canceling, schools, churches civic organizations,” said Claudine Van Gonka, San Diego Blood Bank Marketing Director.

However, Karina is changing that and inspiring so many donors to roll up their sleeves.

On Thursday, the U.S. Marshals Service hosted a blood drive with federal court related employees booking more than double the appointments than pre-pandemic mobile drives.

The U.S. Marshals Service says they had a total of 60 donors which amounts to 180 lives saved and 37 employees were first-time donors.

“A 5-year-old girl is behind this drive, it warmed my heart,” said DOJ employee, Delton Chaney, longtime donor.

After anchoring News 8 at noon last week, Neda Iranpour rolled up her sleeve and Sabre Springs resident, Barry Milefsky encouraged potential blood donors in Karina’s honor.

“I don't want to keep on crying but it's so, so cool how people can be. It's really, really special,” said Willis.

Last week there was less than a two-day blood supply for all blood types. Since Karina’s story aired, there has been a spike in supply. 

“As of today, we are pretty much a three-day supply for all blood types,” said Van Gonka.

Karina’s dad, a former local sports anchor, couldn’t make it to the blood drive because he is in the hospital with Karina while she fights a virus and continues to need blood transfusions. He was able to FaceTime with the U.S. Marshal Service.

“Just knowing that a blood transfusion will help her feel better, that's all that matters,” said Stafford to Willis.

The proud father couldn’t thank him and the donors enough for their kindness.

“I just want to say thank you again and doing what guys are doing,” said Willis.

Karina is doing her part, now she is inspiring others to do their part.

“Thank you,” said Karina.

“You're welcome, Karina, I hope you feel better,” said Stafford.

Karina’s family has hosted a San Diego Blood Bank drive and is planning for another one on December 5 at La Costa Canyon High School from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

You can regularly donate blood every eight weeks, platelets every two weeks and plasma every 16 weeks.

If you donate at the San Diego Blood Bank you can do it in Karina’s honor by using the code “KK21.” Her blood type is A positive, but her family encourages people with all blood types to donate to help those in need.

WATCH RELATED: Blood shortage causing transfusion delay for San Diego girl with leukemia (October 2021)


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