Mia McPoland: Honorary Assistant Coach

By Ben York, PhoenixMercury.com
Posted: August 21, 2014

"Oh my gosh," Mia McPoland said with excitement while touring the Phoenix Mercury locker room. "Brittney Griner likes Skittles and bacon?

'she is so awesome!"

You'd never know it by looking at her, but Mia is battling Diamond Blackfan Anemia, a rare bone marrow failure syndrome that prevents her body from producing red blood cells. A bone marrow transplant is the best treatment option for a cure, but Mia has not found a perfect match yet (she has three sisters, none of whom are a match). In fact, 70% of patients who need a transplant do not have a matching donor in their family.

Mia and her family have been working tirelessly with Be The Match to find a bone marrow donor. Be The Match is a non-profit organization that manages the largest and most diverse marrow registry in the world, now totaling over 11 million selfless volunteers who stand ready to be a life-saving bone marrow donor.

Because Mia hasn't found a match yet, she undergoes monthly blood transfusions to survive. To date, she has endured 113 blood transfusions. She recently had surgery to put in a port (she named it 'sally") because after years of poking and IVs, her veins had enough.

"Mia is an inspiration," said Mercury head coach Sandy Brondello. "Amidst a difficult situation, she finds strength, perseverance and determination. Those are exactly the characteristics that our team needs to become WNBA Champions. We are very excited to have her as a part of the Mercury family."

On August 21, 2014 the Phoenix Mercury 'signed" 11-year old Mia as the team's honorary assistant coach for the entirety of the team's 2014 WNBA Playoffs run. Mia's signing will include a 'salary" from the Mercury to Mia and Be The Match to help find a bone marrow donor for Mia and others like her.

Signing up to become a bone marrow donor is easy and takes a total of less than 10 minutes " just some paperwork and a quick cheek swab. There's also a myth that donation bone marrow is painful, which is simply not true. Marrow donation is done under general or regional anesthesia so the donor experiences no pain during the collection procedure. Your cells replenish themselves in 4 to 6 weeks because 1-5 percent or less of your marrow is needed to save the patient's life, your immune system stays strong.

"When I learned of Mia, I knew that she was the perfect fit," Brondello added. "Amidst the struggles she faces every day, she never gives up hope and has quickly become an inspiration to me, the team and everyone who meets her."

Fans will see Mia cheering with the Hip Hop Squad and on the big screen during Mercury home games. Additionally, in an effort to bring awareness to bone marrow donation, the Mercury has teamed up with Be The Match to host a bone marrow drive this Friday (August 22), where the team will educate fans and Valley residents about becoming a bone marrow donor to help children like Mia.

Free testing will be offered in the Casino Arizona Pavilion at US Airways Center from 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. and 4 - 7 p.m., prior to Game 1 of the Mercury-Sparks series in the First Round of the 2014 Playoffs.

"Even though I'm small," Mia said, "I'm joining the Phoenix Mercury basketball team because they're doing this for me."

How You Can Help

1. Donate to Mia's Be The Match page: If you want to contribute financially to helping Mia find a bone marrow donor, CLICK HERE to access her Be The Match team page.

2. Register to become a bone marrow donor: Head to the Casino Arizona Pavilion on Friday, August 22 either from 11-1 p.m. or 4-7 p.m. to get more information about becoming a bone marrow donor.