Lakewood senior helps younger sister

SMOKEY POINT — Lakewood High School Principal Dale Leach acknowledged that students can occasionally see senior projects as merely being “a box to check off,” but he was heartened by the example of LHS senior Ashlie Jensen on Sept. 24.

Jensen not only celebrated her 18th birthday on Saturday, Sept. 24, but she also did her part to make sure her kid sister Karlie will enjoy many happy birthdays of her own in the years to come.

Karlie Jensen, who’s now 12, was diagnosed with immune thrombocytopenic purpura, or ITP, when she was only 2 years old. ITP causes its sufferers’ immune systems to attack the platelets in their own blood, and because those platelets help blood to clot, ITP sufferers like Karlie face expensive and life-threatening challenges every day as a result of their condition.

“She’s had to go in for infusion treatments every week,” Ashlie Jensen said. “She had to wear a bike helmet to grade school every day. When your blood won’t clot, not only do you get sick a lot, but you have to be careful about which medications you take to treat it. Karlie can’t take anything that will thin her blood, so aspirin is right out.”

“If you have a positive blood type, you get a shot, but if you have a negative blood type, you get a six-hour infusion,” said Tiffany Jensen, Ashlie and Karlie’s mom. “Your platelet count can vary wildly, but if you’re under 50,000, you just can’t do any sports that day. It’s tough for Karlie, having to sit out so many events, especially as a cheerleader.”

Ashlie Jensen has been working with the Platelet Disorder Support Association since May of this year to put together her “Pump It Out For Platelets” 5K walk for Karlie on Sept. 24, starting from and finishing at the Stillaguamish Athletic Club in Arlington. Her efforts inspired an estimated 50 participants to register for the walk online, and close to 40 more to show up that Saturday to take part, boosting her initial take of approximately $1,700 to nearly $2,000.

“I’m proud of Ashlie for doing this,” Tiffany said. “There’s only three other people in the community that we know of who have this. Even ambulance drivers aren’t always aware of what ITP is.”

“I’m just trying to get the word out through this event,” Ashlie said. “Karlie’s in remission now, but it could always come back when she’s in her 20s. There’s no cure for it, so through the PDSA, we’re trying to get people connected to the support groups and to make this condition a little easier to live with.”

“I hope other kids see what Ashlie has done and it gives them the idea to do something equally meaningful for their own senior projects,” Leach said.

Ashlie Jensen hopes her younger siblings, including Karlie, will carry on what she intends to become a family tradition of “Pump It Out For Platelets” 5K walks for their own senior projects.

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