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Profiles of a CCISD Graduate: Savannah Canales

Just Keep Swimming!

Savannah Canales is not one to give up on herself or her goals in life, no matter what is thrown her way.

She has been swimming competitively since she was five years old and made the varsity team as a freshman at Clear Brook High School.

“I like swimming because it can be very personal,” said Savannah. “It’s just you trying to break your own time. I also love relays and working with my team. The environment is different from other sports.”

However, after a successful first year on varsity, a rare illness threatened to ruin her dreams of continuing to swim throughout high school.

“The summer going into my sophomore year, I was diagnosed with mono,” said Savannah. “Since then, I hadn’t been feeling good at all and started seeing red dots appear all over my body.”

After doing bloodwork, her doctor told her to immediately go pack a bag and that they were transferring Savannah to Texas Children's Hospital in Houston.

“I was there almost a week doing multiple transfusions and steroids and nothing was working,” said Savannah. “They eventually diagnosed me with immune thrombocytopenic purpura, or ITP, which is a rare blood disorder.”

A normal person has around 450,000 platelets in the bloodstream. Savannah only had around 2,000 at this time. The treatment also didn’t seem to be working.

“I was having to go to Texas Children's Hospital every week for six months for monitoring and to try to receive treatment,” said Savannah. “I had to completely stop swimming, which is what hurt the most.”

The risks associated with ITP prevented Savannah from doing anything physical, including jumping into a pool or possibly hitting a limb on the wall.

“Anything I touched or bumped into, it would automatically leave a huge bruised because my platelets weren’t going to clot,” said Savannah. “I was just really discouraged, and it was a lot to go through mentally because that was everything I knew. Everything revolved around swim.”

But Savannah didn’t let this diagnosis hold her back for long.

“I heard so many people tell my parents they didn’t think I should go back to swim, but that’s what motivated me even more to get back and find a way,” said Savannah.

The next hurdle she ran into was trying to find a doctor who would sign off on her physical paperwork that was needed to get back on the team at school.

“All of my doctors and nurses I had been seeing didn’t want to sign it because they didn’t think I was capable of not hurting myself in the pool,” said Savannah. “But my family doctor I had been seeing since I was little had a long conversation with me and ended up signing it.”

Savannah and her doctor agreed on several limitations for her being back on the team. She stated she felt was more in tune with her body and knew how far she could push it without getting hurt.

“I was so happy because I knew I was going to be okay,” she said. “I even qualified for the District tournament that year, which was a huge accomplishment for me.”

After a year or so, the ITP condition seemed to be getting better, allowing Savannah to continue competing on the swim team and in water polo and eventually making it to the regional swim meet her senior year with the relay team. She was also voted as the team captain.

“It ended up fixing itself on its own,” said Savannah. “It just eventually went away. It was truly a miracle.”

When asked what the driving force was to get back to swimming, Savannah attributes her mindset and success to other children who may not be as fortunate as her.

“I was on the cancer floor of the hospital during treatment, so every time I went, I saw all of these kids there,” said Savannah. “I knew, unfortunately, some of them weren’t going to be able to walk out of the hospital like I was. So, I decided from then on that I was going to swim for them.”

So that’s what she did. Every time she raced, she said she would put a new meaning behind her effort so the stories of the kids at Texas Children's Hospital could be shared.

“It’s okay to get discouraged in life, but you shouldn’t stay there because there is a whole life plan for you,” said Savannah. “It may not look like what you planned for yourself, but there is a bigger and better plan.”

Savannah will graduate this year and attend the University of Houston-Clear Lake. Her goal is to go into marketing and communications for Texas Children’s Hospital.


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