PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — For years, Kat Coker helped brighten the lives of sick children as a Make-A-Wish volunteer. But now, the 46-year-old Portland woman learned she has cancer — and has wishes of her own.
Not surprisingly, they revolve around helping others and giving back.
“I’ve known Kat for nearly 13 years and when I found out she had leukemia, I just really feel, like, it’s not fair,” said Laila Cook, the CEO of Make-A-Wish Oregon. “She’s worked so hard to help other families and kids deal with leukemia.”
“When you donate blood, you know it will be used for something good” — Kat Coker
Cook said it takes someone very special to volunteer at Make-A-Wish and that Coker took on some of the toughest cases.
“Every once in a while we get a case, what we call a rush wish, and those kids will move to the front of the line for medical reasons,” Cook said. It compresses the time frame from 9 months to about 3 weeks.
Kat Coker has taken on a rush wish about 20 times, Cook told KOIN 6 News.
But Kat hadn’t been feeling well. She went to the doctor a few times in early May. After a few visits, the doctors did a blood draw and realized she needed immediate treatment.
“She didn’t leave the hospital for 6 weeks after she came in,” Cook said.
When she did get out, she had 2 wishes of her own: for people to donate blood to Red Cross and for people to go to BeTheMatch.org to become a bone marrow donor.
Kat, who has been a blood donor her entire adult life, said she knew she was going to take more blood than she had ever donated.
“I wanted to be able to show or replace that at the very least,” she told KOIN 6 News, “and hopefully inspire others to kind of take that baton and give to the American Red Cross.”
On Friday, the Red Cross held a Make-A-Wish blood drive during what is generally a challenging time to get blood donors.
“People are busy. They’re going on summer vacations,” said Red Cross spokesperson Natividad Lewis. “We definitely don’t want to be in a scenario where the blood isn’t available in an emergency situation.”
Lewis said the story of Kat Coker — who has had almost her entire blood replaced a few times — illustrates the need for year-round blood donors.
“You just never know when you will become that person that needs blood,” Lewis told KOIN 6 News.
A stream of donors went into the Red Cross Bloodmobile Friday, helping Kat Coker get one of her wishes.
“She has done so much for so many. I just said, ‘What can we do to help support you?'” Laila Cook said.
“I’m honored that we can be a small part of making her feel like she’s got a whole army of people behind her.”
“What I’m going through, the blood units that I’m receiving, those are all things, they happened,” Kat said. “But next week it could be somebody else. You just don’t know when and where the life that you save is touched and you may never know what that connection is.
“But when you donate blood, you know it will be used for something good.”