McKindree is a bright, young new bride. You would never believe when first talking with her that she has been battling a blood disorder for the past 10 years. When she was about 12, she was diagnosed with Diamond Blackfan Anemia and immune deficiency.
It's a rare and painful diagnosis that required treatments such as chemotherapy and eventually a bone marrow transplant. McKindree spent quite a lot of time in the hospital while doctors narrowed down a diagnosis and then tried to treat it. She had to say goodbye to typical school life and her dreams of being a gymnast. There were small moments that brought her peace. Her best friend spent many days in the hospital trying to encourage her. This helped so much through the intense fatigue and infections she was constantly fighting.
McKindree decided to pivot her interests into things that she could focus on and get excited about. She grew a passion for photography and fashion.
She felt incredibly blessed to have a large tightknit family during her medical journey. Her mother always there with Mckindree, giving hope to her and many other families in the hospital. Her father and siblings always were always there for her too, often visiting the hospital while she was in. And when she was out of the hospital, her family made sure that she made the most of her time traveling and living life to it’s fullest.
When McKindree was 16 she was told that she had a match for a bone marrow transplant (BMT). She had chemotherapy for about a week and a half beforehand to help cleanse her body for the transplant. On the day of the procedure, she got an injection which lasted many hours. When the procedure is done, you just have to wait and see if the cells graft and become your own. During the process, you are neutropenic and constantly susceptible to infection. BMT recipients take the same immune suppressants that many solid organ transplants recipients take. They have to be immune-suppressed in order for the graft to take.
Even then, as McKindree found, you can get Graft vs Host Disease (GVHD). GVHD inflames the organ system and causes other problems. I can be constantly itching skin in one person, or it can be irritable bowel syndrome in another. If you have chronic GVHD then you have to have Immunoglobulin therapy or IVIG. This is a way of dealing with some types of rejection, chronic inflammation, and many other issues. The IVIG helps keep the GVHD at bay so Mckindree can live a semi-normal life.
McKindree saw how hard hospital life was on many families. Often marriages and finances lay in ruin for these medically complex families. Not all with a life-saving happy ending. She deeply understands how lucky she was to have a family that was very supportive and stuck out every situation until its end. "To see the way they're dealing with those very obvious difficulties with such grace and such compassion with open hearts is really inspiring and encouraging," Levi Ware of Melodic Sound Project said of Mckindree.
This past April, during a pandemic, Mckindree got married to the love of her life. This was something she barely dreamed possible a few years ago. Her health significantly improved after this. Her doctors' joke that if they knew love was the answer, they would have prescribed it long ago. Not only that but she is going to college studying social media marketing. Despite a very long journey, it appears Mckindree is getting a fairy tale ending after all. We can wait to see what she will do next.
"We don't choose to live in crisis, we chose to live looking toward the future and surrounding yourself with people who help you get through that is a really magnificent thing," Aimee said.