How can my daughter have extreamly low iron levels but it not show in her blood?

Patient : My daughter is 21 and has severe learning difficulties, for about 18 months she was extreamly tired,sleeping alot,had no energy and was as white as a ghost,i kept taking her to the gp who done blood tests and nothing was found. then her nails kept breaking and her hair was coming out in clumps. the gp done more bloods and her iron level was only 5.6. i had to take her straight to hospital where more bloods were done, and her level had dropped again to 4.3. she had to have a blood transfusion where she was given 5 units of blood. she now takes iron tablets 3 times a day and is having her bloods checked to keep an eye on her levels. what i want to know is how could she have been so ill for so long and it not show in her blood? she obviously had a dangerously low iron level for a long time so how could it not show in her blood? her gp had checked her bloods and the hospital in the last 18 months, but nothing was wrong? yet she was so ill absoulutly out of breath just walking for 10mins.
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