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Atherton girl beats rare blood disease, becomes a YouTube singing sensation

2.4 from 5 votes
Monday, January 07, 2013

Reagan Smith, 11, survived a rare blood disorder and now has a hit video on YouTube and a song on iTunes, which is generating money she is giving back to Lucile Packard Children's Hospital. (Photo by Kirstina Sangsahachart)

As Reagan Smith sits behind a baby grand piano in her Atherton home, the 11-year-old's winsome voice fills the room with the song she wrote about living with a rare blood disease.

One line in the chorus captures the fifth grader's perspective of her battle: "This is a bump in a very long road that leads you to your destiny."

Reagan's road, it turned out, would include a brush with fame when one of the songs she sang -- "I Wanna Know" -- became a YouTube hit with more than 2 million views.

The road initially took a turn for the bad when in first grade she began getting large dark bruises all over her body. Reagan's mother, Sandra Smith, said she immediately took her daughter to Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford. After running some tests the hospital determined Reagan had immune thrombocytopenic purpura, or ITP, a disorder in which the immune system destroys the platelets essential for blood clotting, putting the patient at risk for internal bleeding.

A simple bump or fall could have meant death for the Sacred Heart Schools student.

"Her activities were severely restricted, she couldn't swing, she couldn't go out at recess, she couldn't ride a bike or roller-skate, or anything," Sandra Smith said. "And she was a very active little run-around kid. When you think of first or second graders, they are always bumping their head. That was the biggest fear."

During most of her time in first and second grade, Reagan spent recess in a classroom, sometimes helping her teacher with prep work like photocopying while other kids played outside.

"It was hard for me," Reagan said.

But after two years of treatment, including chemotherapy and surgery to remove her spleen, Reagan's disease is now in remission and her fate has taken a different turn.

After winning a music competition last year, she was signed by pop-music producer Patrice Wilson and soon became a YouTube sensation with her "I Wanna Know" song, which is also available on iTunes. Reagan donates proceeds from the song's sales to the Bass Center for Pediatric Cancer and Blood Diseases at Packard Children's Hospital.

To date, more than 9,000 songs at 99 cents each have been sold, Sandra Smith said, adding that the family will round up the donation and present a check to the hospital this month for $10,000.

Reagan's singing success sprung from her rare disease. Because she couldn't engage in physical activities, Reagan's parents encouraged her interests in singing and performing.

"I have always loved to sing, but when I really started singing was when I got sick and had ITP," Reagan said. "Singing got me through that."

Stanford Dr. Bert Glader, who treated Reagan, called her "phenomenal." He said that as a patient she was friendly, though sometimes a little shy.

"When I first saw her on stage I thought, 'Wow, is this the same kid?' " Glader said during a phone interview last month.

Now, like a young Taylor Swift, Reagan is enjoying writing songs about her life experiences. During a visit with a reporter, she pulls out her pink-covered iPhone, on which she's written the lyrics to a new song about a struggling friendship.

But singing isn't her only hobby today. With her doctors' approval, Reagan plays volleyball and soccer, rides horses, runs track and enjoys jumping on the family's backyard trampoline.

She's also planning to ditch fame at some point to become a surgeon. Reagan said she was inspired by the doctors who helped her regain her health.

"I bet they have a good feeling when they cure a patient," she said. "I still want to keep singing. I want to be a surgeon and kind of sing on the weekends."

Watch Reagan Smith singing "I WANNA KNOW":

Author: By Bonnie Eslinger
Source: Contra Costa Times
2.4 from 5 votes
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