While his classmates were finishing their last few weeks of the fourth grade, Joey Tripp was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma—bone cancer. It would be another seven years until he would again attend a full year of school.
It all began on a normal Sunday in 1995. Joey was with his family at church when the pain in his leg became overwhelming and forced the 10-year old boy to tears. His parents immediately drove from where they lived in Yonker, Georgia, to the emergency room in Macon. The diagnosis was not only hard to swallow, but also hard for anyone, let alone a 10-year-old, to understand. The months and years that followed were unimaginable. Joey’s life became full of lengthy hospital stays, intense treatments, long periods of time away from other children, surgery after surgery (he’s had 45 to date) and many blood transfusions.
Often, Joey needed platelets. And, because the hospital in Macon did not have the specialty blood that he needed, he and his mom would drive the two and a half hours from Yonker to Atlanta for treatment. On one horrific occasion, a snow storm shut down the interstate, causing the trip to take much longer than usual. Badly in need of a transfusion, Joey passed out in his mom’s car and did not wake up until he was in the hospital—well after his treatment had begun.
Today, thanks to his own courage, the skill of his doctors, the endless love of his family and the lifesaving treatments he received, Joey is not only alive, but a thriving member of the community. He holds three college degrees (including a master’s degree from the University of Georgia), he has been recognized on multiple occasions for his volunteer work and he gives back every day at his job as a Donor Relations Officer with the American Red Cross.
“At the time when I was receiving the blood donations, I didn’t understand what it took to get them. Now, as an adult and an employee of the Red Cross, I fully appreciate those who donate blood because without them, I would have died,” he said. “It feels great to know that people gave a part of themselves for me, and I hope that by sharing my story more people are inspired to do the same.”
PLEASE GIVE THIS HOLIDAY SEASON
Unfortunately, during the holidays blood and platelet donations often decline when busy schedules, inclement weather and seasons illness can make it more difficult for donors to make and keep blood donation appointments. In fact, more than 80 percent of blood donations are made at blood drives organized by volunteer sponsor groups and coordinators. Many of which post pone their drives during the holidays when regular donors tend to be busy with holiday activities and travel.
Let Joey’s story inspire you to make time to help patients by scheduling an appointment to donate by downloading the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting redcrossblood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).
A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.
Donors can use RapidPass to complete their pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of their donation, from a mobile device or computer. Visit redcrossblood.org/RapidPass to get started.