Living with a family legacy

Living with a  family legacy
PASCALLE BIPPERT Little Karsyn Garnett has inherited a family legacy ...spherocytosis, a rare blood disorder. Despite needing transfusions to replenish her red blood cells, this little cherub is thriving.

Many people don’t like the thought of needles or getting shots. But one baby girl in La Vernia is a trooper when it comes to needles.

Karsyn Garnett, 4 months old, inherited a legacy that dates all the way back to when her great-great grandparents lived in Scotland. It isn’t a treasure or a title, but a rare blood disorder that has been passed down from generation to generation. Karsyn has spherocytosis; this makes her red blood cells sphere-shaped and makes her prone to anemia. She was born five weeks early and had to spend three days in the North Central Baptist Hospital neonatal intensive care unit.

“Those nurses are just wonderful,” said Karsyn’s mother, Brittany Garnett. “I just can’t say enough good things about them!”

Karsyn was diagnosed with spherocytosis four days after her birth.

Brittany also had spherocytosis as a baby, as did her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. One of Brittany’s grandmother’s siblings died from the disorder.

She had to get blood transfusions as a child, and received blood from her father because they had the same blood type.

Brittany and her husband, Caylon, knew there was a 50/50 chance any of their babies could have the blood disorder.

“Why do you have kids, knowing that your child might have this?” one doctor asked her.

“I was infuriated!” Brittany recalled.

She told him, “Look at me. I’m okay. I’m 5 feet, 10 inches tall, did sports and music, and I’m fine. My grandmother had it and is still alive. It’s manageable. She [Karsyn] will be able to live a full life.”

Spherocytosis indicators include jaundice, or yellowing of the skin.

“Karsyn gets a white ring around the insides of her little lips, the whites of her eyes get yellow, and her gums get white,” Brittany said, adding that these are indicative of anemia.

Little Karsyn has had to endure blood transfusions, and has had two so far; one lasted 14 hours!

She has lab work each week to check her hemoglobin levels. If this falls below a certain level, it can cause developmental delays, Brittany explained.

For Karsyn’s blood transfusions, Brittany takes her to the oncology and hematology ward. After a blood test to determine a match, the blood is irradiated to purify it, Brittany said. Then they put an IV needle in the top of Karsyn’s foot and pump the blood into her.

“They also give her Lasix to help her body shed some of the extra liquid she is getting, and steroids to protect her from allergic reactions,” her mother said.

“I have to hold her for the entire time on my lap to make sure she doesn’t squirm too much and kick her legs too much and dislodge the needle,” Brittany said.

Brittany was able to receive blood from her father, but Caylon is unable to donate for Karsyn. However, Brittany said, “He plans on donating blood é to give back. It is a precious gift.

“Without donors’ blood [Karsyn] would not be healthy,” Brittany said. “I would donate blood if I could, but I cannot.”

Despite the great care taken with donated blood, there is a risk that a recipient could get more than just the much-needed blood during a transfusion. Brittany’s grandmother contracted Hepatitis C from a transfusion and developed liver cancer. She also had to have a liver transplant, but she’s still alive, Brittany said.

Though she inherited the spherocytosis, Brittany has lived a full, normal, life. Although she had to have blood transfusions and had her spleen removed when she was 5, she thrived. In high school, she played volleyball and was on two state championship basketball teams. She also played trumpet and went to state band contest as part of an ensemble. She hopes Karsyn will like sports and music, too.

As an adult, Brittany still has to watch what she eats to make sure her hemoglobin levels stay normal. She takes daily vitamins and gets all her vaccinations, including the flu vaccine. Spherocytosis means she and Karsyn are more susceptible to infections and other “bugs” that go around.

“Karsyn will have to have her spleen removed when she is 5, too, like I did,” Brittany said.

Little Karsyn’s parents are self-employed. Caylon has his own oilfield business and Brittany is a real estate agent. This leaves her free to travel to Karsyn’s many doctors’ appointments in San Antonio, but also keeps her from taking real-estate jobs that could require more of her time.

Their insurance is “astronomical,” Brittany said. “From the monthly premiums to the co-pays, it’s very expensive. Karsyn’s birth and medical condition satisfied the family deductible at birth.”

The best way people can help Karsyn, Brittany said, is to donate blood.

“Please come out to support the blood drive that is being hosted by the Texas School of Phlebotomy and the La Vernia News on Aug. 27,” Brittany said. “It’s a gift of life.”

Give life!

Donating blood helps many people from accident victims to those suffering illnesses and genetic disorders.

Donate to help Karsyn and others on Saturday, Aug. 27, at the Texas School of Phlebotomy in China Grove, from 9 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. All donors will receive a T-shirt! Other blood drives, page 3.

The Texas School of Phlebotomy is located at 7541 U.S. 87 East. For information, call 210-390-0551 or email

The South Texas Blood & Tissue Center collects blood to provide an adequate supply for 67 hospitals in 43 South Texas counties, depending on volunteer donors.

“é blood is perishable and there is no substitute.”