Kat Coker has been helping others since 1986. Inspired to volunteer by a high school teacher, she was active in supporting blood drives. She also was inspired by a fellow student and Make-A-Wish child who lost his battle with lung cancer. “That seeded my desire to volunteer with Make-A-Wish to feed back the good will, share the hope, strength, and joy a wish can bring.”
Kat Coker has been a Make-A-Wish volunteer for 13 years. She has dedicated countless hours to help grant the wishes of children, including visits to the Oregon Zoo, Disney, race car driving and swimming with the dolphin. “I have spent most of my wish granting time on ‘Rush’ wishes, when a child has a pending life threatening procedure or is in end of life care.”
This past May, she was diagnosed with AML (acute myelogenous leukemia), herself.
While on vacation at Disneyland in May, she noticed many warning signs – migraines, heart racing, sore throat, shortness of breath, tunnel vision. Once she returned, her doctor ran a CBC test. That night, Kat received a call stating that she had to go to the emergency room immediately.
“They said, ‘You have leukemia.’ And I’m thinking who calls someone at ten at night and just tells them they have leukemia? This just doesn’t happen.” The news was devastating for Kat, who has spent her life giving back to others. Now she is in need. Since her diagnosis, Kat has received 12 transfusions of both platelets and whole blood along with a month-long stay at St. Vincent’s Medical Center. A blood drive was held in honor of Kat on Friday, July 29, at Make-A-Wish Portland. More than 25 people came to donate and 18 units of blood was collected in honor of Kat.
“It’s never known when, never known why, but as a donor you can feel a sense of heartfelt goodwill in donating to somebody you’ll never meet… you’ll never know. But you’ll know as a recipient they’re appreciative and in need. I’ve been on both sides of that token now. Every time I get a transfusion, I look up at the bag and I just thank them. I have no idea who they are. They have no idea who I am but I know I need it. And now, I want to know what can I do to help inspire people to donate blood. How can I reach the ones who are just now learning what giving blood can do for people. Those are the people that I want to reach.”