Hundreds of blood donations help Grand Marais teen navigate rare disease

Published: Jun. 26, 2023 at 5:04 PM CDT
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GRAND MARAIS, MN. (Northern News Now) - Navigating a health diagnosis is difficult no matter the disease.

That is especially true for conditions that don’t have a cure and are not widely studied.

In Grand Marais, family and the community’s generosity meant the world of difference for one teen battling a rare disease.

Payton Quaife just finished 7th grade, and the 13-year-old has a jam-packed summer.

“I like doing theater a lot, and I like painting sometimes, as well, doing art,” Payton said.

Payton is passionate about her hobbies, but she also chose them for a reason.

“You can’t do physical activities,” she said. “You can’t do gym in school. You can’t do sports. Anything that could involve you getting hit in the head or anywhere else because you could bruise really badly.”

Payton has idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP).

She was diagnosed last August when her nurse noticed some bruises that just were not healing.

“We were literally in the middle of lunch when the doctor called us again and said her blood level came back and her platelets were at zero, and we needed to go to the ER right away,” Payton’s mother, Courtney Quaife, said.

ITP is an autoimmune disease.

Platelets normally help the blood clot, and low levels of those cells can cause bleeding.

“It just kind of goes into war with itself and your body just attacks your platelets like it’s a virus, and they don’t really know what causes it, and they don’t know what cures it, so there’s no known cure,” Courtney said.

At the hospital, Payton received two units of platelets and was ultimately life-flighted to the Mayo Clinic.

She was treated with Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg), which is a blood product that slows down the destruction of platelets.

In the months that followed, Payton’s platelet levels needed constant monitoring.

“I had to get my blood drawn every Monday at first to make sure my platelets were up to a good, high number,” Payton said.

That number has been improving thanks to people who take a few minutes out of their day to donate blood.

The Quaifes estimate Payton used blood from around 163 donors throughout her treatment.

“We are just so thankful for all the donors that donate here, Duluth, anywhere, because they’re always needed,” Courtney said. “You never know who’s going to need it, if your family is going to need it. Donate when you can.”

While Payton had to make major adjustments to her life in the past year, her strength shines through even the toughest of situations.

“It was very scary,” Courtney said. “You do so much research to try and figure out what you can do, and there’s nothing you can do so you feel very helpless as a parent, but she is very strong and she’s done really well.

Because of the hundreds of donors who gave blood to help Payton through her health journey, the Quaifes wanted to pay it forward.

In March, the Quaifes hosted a two-day blood drive in Grand Marais with Memorial Blood Centers.

Spots filled up so quickly they had to open more.

In total, around 80 people donated during their drive.

Courtney said all that blood helps refill banks in the area and goes toward saving more lives.

“It went so well,” she said. “We had so many people that wanted to sign up that weren’t able to, so we figured what better way to do it than have another one.”

Another Grand Marais blood drive is in the works.

It is happening on July 25 and July 26.

In Duluth, Northern News Now’s blood drive is going on Monday and Tuesday at Pier B in Duluth.

Memorial Blood Centers says there are still spots available on Tuesday.

Click here to see all upcoming blood drives with Memorial Blood Centers.