In 2006, San Ramon residents Alex and Carol Low were preparing to welcome a healthy baby boy into the world.
But when baby Dillon was born, it was immediately apparent that there was a problem.
“We knew something was wrong when I asked, ‘where’s my baby?’” Carol said. “The doctors were silent at the time, but came over and showed him to me for about five seconds and then rushed him off.”
Tests revealed that Dillon was born with an exceedingly low level of hemoglobin. He was diagnosed with Diamond Blackfan Anemia–a rare genetic disorder that prevented his bone marrow from producing red blood cells. A bone marrow transplant could potentially cure him, but Dillon would require monthly blood transfusions until a suitable donor could be found.
The American Red Cross in Northern California worked to identify and recruit a small group of blood donors to meet Dillon’s ongoing transfusion needs. These donors were encouraged to maintain their eligibility and be prepared to donate whenever needed–often with very little notice. And for the next six years, that is exactly what they did.
“It was very difficult as a parent to watch your child go to the hospital every three to four weeks,” said Carol, who accompanied Dillon on the daylong trips to receive the blood that would keep him well and vibrant. “But we were extremely grateful the blood was always available when he needed it.”
Finally, in May 2012, Dillon received the bone marrow transplant that cured him of the life-threatening blood disorder. Now, according to his doctor, Dillon is expected to live a normal life and “should be able to climb any mountain, swim in the Olympics, and run any marathon if he wants.”
“Since the transplant, [Dillon] has been doing very well,” Carol said. “Overall, he’s just a happy child–living life like any other 6-year-old.”
Over the course of his treatment, Dillon received approximately 80 transfusions–roughly six gallons of blood. The selfless dedication that the anonymous blood donors showed for Dillon has left a lasting impression on his parents.
“That blood was his lifeline,” said Alex, who has since become a blood donor with the hope of helping someone else’s family.
“We have a child who is still here–who is still alive–because of blood donations and the sacrifices the donors made for him,” Carol said.
The American Red Cross provides blood to nearly 30 hospitals in the greater-Bay Area—including Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital in Hollister. In order to meet the needs of patients in those hospitals, the Red Cross must collect approximately 1,800 pints of blood and platelets each week. The Red Cross operates five blood donation centers (Oakland, Pleasant Hill, Pleasanton, Newark, and San Jose) and stages regular mobile blood drives throughout the Bay Area—from Contra Costa County to Monterey County.
The need for blood is constant; and the Red Cross relies on the generous support of volunteer donors and blood drive sponsors in order to carry out its lifesaving mission. For more information about donating blood or becoming a blood drive sponsor, please call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or visit redcrossblood.org.