Written by Jim Taylor, platelet donor and father of a patient helped by the Red Cross
When the American Red Cross says there is a shortage, they are not exaggerating. I now know from experience they are saying, in part, that somewhere there is a father waiting on the donation that will save his son’s life.
Four years ago around this time of year, my newborn son, Aaron, was diagnosed with a very rare, severe liver condition called neonatal hemochromatosis. Aaron’s body was not able to get rid of bilirubin and there were elevated enzyme levels from the liver. He received daily transfusions of blood, platelets and plasma.
The only viable treatment for Aaron was a liver transplant. On January 12, Aaron got a second chance at life with a liver transplant. However, complications caused that liver to fail. A second transplant on January 27 was also unsuccessful, and Aaron passed away February 19, 2013.
The gift of time
Aaron received 115 individual blood products during his lifetime. Packed red cells and plasma were frequent, but because of his liver’s inability to function properly and the trauma of surgery on a 5-pound baby, platelets bought Aaron time every day of his life. One day his nurse was going over his numbers with us and her brow raised when she mentioned he would need platelets again soon. The hospital blood bank was empty, she recalled.
At that point, I decided to begin platelet donations again. My family began donating platelets and blood too. It was the only time I felt like I was gaining any ground in helping my son. It continues to be a catharsis even now.
When I donate, I feel a direct connection to Aaron, just like I felt a connection to the anonymous people whose gifts kept Aaron alive. For me, donation sessions are times of meditation. I think about Aaron. I wonder if he is proud of me and if he knows how much I love him. I think about my platelets and where they will go as soon as the donation is over. I like to think some of it will help a child like Aaron and I hope that child’s parents will worry a little less because of this small contribution.
I just finished up donating over 16 gallons of platelets since Aaron passed and hope to keep it up the rest of my life.
The need is real
Healthcare professionals cannot succeed without the right tools and supplies. Blood does not come from a fancy medical factory – it comes from generous donors. We must all do what we can to protect and save human life because one day we may find ourselves praying for a donor.