Birthday Blood Drive Set to Honor Teen Who Received 46 Transfusions, Lifesaving Surgery

Kenzie Maddry poses for a photo during her 16th birthday party.
MacKenzie Maddry poses for a photo during her 16th birthday party. By this point, Kenzie had received 24 blood transfusions during her battle with osteosarcoma. One month later, she would go into end-stage heart failure — and received 22 more transfusions following a lifesaving surgery.


When MacKenzie Maddry was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in December 2020, her family envisioned the day she’d conquer the rare form of bone cancer and be able to return to the activities that brought her joy.

In September 2022, that day finally seemed within their grasp.

That was the month the Bella Vista, Arkansas, teenager celebrated two important milestones on her long and complicated road to recovery — her 16th birthday and one year of being cancer-free.

As the Maddry family prepared to host an annual blood drive in Kenzie’s honor, there was a palpable feeling the athlete — who had spent 14-plus months on crutches following a surgery that replaced part of her leg with a cadaver bone — might be able to return to the field for her junior year of high school sports.

A month later, doctors were questioning if Kenzie would live to see her 17th birthday.

She had gone into end-stage heart failure, with functions reaching critically low, single-digit levels.

What’s worse: Kenzie would not be eligible for a much-needed transplant until she was two years cancer-free. That date wouldn’t arrive for another 11 months at the earliest — and could be further delayed by setbacks. There were legitimate doubts about if her failing heart could hold out that long.

The former track and cross-country runner suddenly found herself in the race of her life.

“The doctors were even surprised she was functioning,” Kenzie’s mother, Dori, recalled of the diagnosis. “To hear that kind of news is like ‘Wow, what? I don’t understand.’ She was doing OK and we were on the mend. To hear that was devastating. All you could do is just cry and wonder ‘OK, what’s next?’”

Kenzie Maddry poses for a photo in her middle school sports uniform in Spring 2020. Months later, she'd be sidelined due to a battle with osteosarcoma.
Kenzie Maddry poses for a photo in her junior high sports uniform in Spring 2020. Months later, she’d be sidelined due to a battle with osteosarcoma.

The answer to a question was a groundbreaking surgery that would regulate Kenzie’s heart — just the second such procedure ever performed on a child in the state of Arkansas — and dozens of lifesaving blood transfusions when complications arose. Thanks to doctors and those anonymous blood donors, Kenzie is rapidly approaching the birthday so many doubted she would be able to reach.

To celebrate, the Maddry family is partnering with Community Blood Center of the Ozarks to host the third annual #TeamKenzie Blood Drive at CBCO donor centers in Springdale and Bentonville, Arkansas.

While Kenzie’s birthday is September 7, donors are welcome to give any day between September 5-8. Appointments are highly recommended and can be made by clicking below or calling 417-227-5000.



The Maddy family poses for a photo. Kenzie's shirt says "CBCO Blood Donors Saved My Life."
The Maddy family poses for a photo after Kenzie was released from the hospital. Her shirt says “CBCO Blood Donors Saved My Life.”

Despite all the challenges of the past 11 months, Dori said the family wanted to carry on the tradition of hosting a blood drive to shine a light on Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and collect much-needed blood products for patients who are fighting similar battles in communities across the Ozarks.

“It’s not just September,” Dori said. “It’s every day that kids are being impacted by childhood cancer and needing help for blood. And if it doesn’t go to a child, it definitely goes to a person who is in need.”

Kenzie has received 46 blood products during her three-year journey, each of them vitally important to her recovery. The family is forever indebted to those individuals who gave blood at events like the one they’re sponsoring, and hope sharing Kenzie’s story inspires a few newcomers to give the gift of life.

“It just continues to be so important both for (Kenzie) and for me to make sure we continue to raise that awareness,” Dori said. “Even she was like ‘Hey, are we doing the blood drive again?’ — because she knows it’s around September — her birthday — and Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.”


While Kenzie’s story began with a cancer diagnosis, the latest chapter is all about her heart.

In October 2022, she underwent reconstructive leg surgery due to previous removal of a bone graft, which became infected. Two days later, she developed chest pains — and rushed back to the hospital.

“Something wasn’t right,” Dori recalled. “You could tell because the doctors were very nervous.”

Kenzie Maddry prepares to be airlifted to Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock.
Kenzie prepares to be transported to Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock.

Kenzie was airlifted to Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock, where she was promptly admitted to the cardiovascular intensive care unit (CVICU). She had developed chemotherapy-induced cardiomyopathy about 10 months into her cancer treatment, which affected her heart’s ability to pump blood throughout her body — but no one expected that would one day lead to end-stage heart failure.

For context, Dori said that Kenzie’s heart was operating at a moderately diminished 37 percent in May 2022. The night she was admitted to the hospital, that number was hovering between 7 and 8 percent.

“Thankfully, it went up to about 20 percent over the next day or so,” Dori said.


Doctors spent the next few weeks trying a variety of medications to try to further boost Kenzie’s heart functions, closely monitoring the results. Unfortunately, it did not respond to any of the treatments.

“When the medicine didn’t work, they basically said if she doesn’t get an LVAD – which is a left ventricular assist device – that she would not make it to her 17th birthday,” Dori said.

The revolutionary device would be surgically implanted in Kenzie’s chest and essentially replace the functionality of Kenzie’s failing heart, pumping blood throughout her body. But the procedure was risky.

Kenzie would be just the second pediatric patient in the state of Arkansas to have an LVAD installed.

The first remained in the hospital until a heart transplant was possible, Dori said.

Kenzie’s device was installed in November 2022, almost one month to the day after she was first admitted to the CVICU. In all, she would spend 114 days in the hospital — and receive 22 units of blood products during that time. The majority helped replace blood lost after the procedure.

“It was like one package after the next package after the next package,” Dori said. “We also had to wait on some, which is another reason why it’s so important to give. In those critical moments, you don’t want to have to wait.”


Those 22 units of blood nearly doubled the total Kenzie received during chemotherapy and previous surgeries, bringing the total to 46 since December 2020. That’s 46 donors who each gave nothing more than a bit of their time and good health to give someone, somewhere, a chance to get better.

Kenzie and Dori Maddry during Kenzie's stay at Arkansas Children's Hospital.
Kenzie and Dori Maddry during Kenzie’s stay at Arkansas Children’s Hospital.

“It’s saving her life,” Dori said. “Watching her during those moments, we will probably never meet those people. They will probably never know the impact that they gave, but I hope they know that their time and their selflessness is valued. We can never, ever say thank you enough to those people for taking their time and saving our daughter.”

There are about 3 million people living in the state of Arkansas — and Kenzie is the only pediatric patient with an LVAD who was able to be released from the hospital. Before that could happen, there were dozens of meetings and training sessions with local first responders, hospital staff and family members on what to do in an emergency situation — and creating a process for documenting Kenzie’s statistics.

But if it could be done, Kenzie would have the unique opportunity to blaze a trail for future children awaiting heart transplants. They could live their lives in the comfort of their own home, closer to their loved ones, instead of being confined to a hospital room for months — or potentially even years.

“I think it’s most important because there will be other kids,” Dori said. “I think for everybody, no one wants to stay in that hospital setting for a year plus while they wait on a transplant or a heart to become available. No one wants to be away from their friends, from their family, from their loved ones for that long.”


Kenzie poses for a photo with Rhonda, which is what she has named the LVAD's backpack.
Kenzie and Rhonda pose for a photo.

In February 2023, doctors finally gave Kenzie the go-ahead to return to Bella Vista. She’s embraced the lifesaving device, naming it Rhonda and giving it personality and character by decorating her backpack.

“She’s adjusted pretty well,” Dori said. “She knows to check her flow daily and monitors her other LVAD settings. We have a routine for getting her batteries in the morning and plugging into charger at night.”

It’s a huge departure from her pre-cancer routines, but Kenzie is remaining positive.

“She continues to amaze me with her spirits,” Dori said. “There are definitely going to be bad days and possibly multiple bad days. It’s a lot of trauma, but what I’m most proud of is the fact she’s so optimistic. She wants to take this and move forward.”


The goal is still for Kenzie to become eligible for a heart transplant, which would be yet another surgery on a journey that has already included a dozen of them. She’s also spent a total of 283 days in the hospital, undergone more than 300 lab tests, had 95 X-Rays and spent more than 920 days on crutches or with a walker.

For now, they’re taking things day-by-day.

“As a mom, I’ve learned it’s never over,” Dori said. “It’s just time until the next scan. The worry is always there if cancer will come back. For this reason and so many others in her journey, it’s why we enjoy the little things so much more. The time together at the dinner table, time playing a board game, just hanging out at home or going out to eat as a family. When we are together, it’s a great day — no matter what else is going on.”

Because hospitals have become such a big part of her life in the past three years, Kenzie is considering pursuing a career in healthcare. She’s also hoping to one day be able to donate blood — perhaps even at the annual drive that bears her name.

Kenzie during a family trip to Branson, Missouri.
Kenzie poses for a photo during a recent family trip to Branson, Missouri.

For right now, though, the Maddry family hopes her journey inspires others to give.  

“We want to make sure to let others know and be advocates,” Dori said. “We want to be there for other families like others are there for us. And we definitely want to do our part to share her story so that others are more aware and would like to give back if they can.”

Donating to the Community Blood Center of the Ozarks allows more than 40 local hospitals to continue to provide lifesaving treatment to friends, neighbors and loved ones here in our communities. There is no other organization that supplies blood and blood products to these hospitals, who rely exclusively on CBCO donors to help patients. What kind of stories will your donation inspire? Click here to find a drive near you.