William and Amanda Kaczur are grateful for the priceless gifts American Red Cross blood donors bestowed upon their family. Each donor’s generosity is personified in every smile, kiss and hug they receive from their four-year-old daughter, Lena. In November 2018, after six months of uncertainty, the Kaczurs were finally able to leave the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, MI—it felt like they could breathe again.
That night the air was crisp, and their family was greeted with enchanting views of trees all aglow. It felt perfect, all made possible in large part, by the help of selfless blood donors.
“As a parent all you really want is to have healthy and happy children, and for so long, we didn’t have that. And to be able to walk out of there at Christmas time with the lights shining, it was magical,” said Amanda.
Lifesaving Gifts Helped a Tiny Cancer Patient
The Kaczurs quickly learned how crucial blood donors were to the health of their then 18-month-old daughter, Lena, when she developed an abnormal rash on her leg. Her pediatrician suspected the blemish could be an indicator of cancer. Unfortunately, within hours the doctor’s suspicions were confirmed—Lena had acute myeloid leukemia, an extremely aggressive blood cancer.
Lena depended on a trilogy of blood, platelet and plasma transfusions, in addition to chemotherapy to treat the cancer that raged through her tiny body. “The first few days, if we didn’t have it, we would not be talking about her today,” said Amanda.
The difference in Lena’s stamina and appearance, before and after each blood and platelet transfusion was astonishing. She resumed the pace of a busy toddler, and the dark bruises that formed after the slightest ding diminished significantly. In total, she received over 30 transfusions of blood products.
“To go from seeing your kid be almost lifeless, to running the halls after just one red blood cell transfusion was a complete change,” said Amanda. “Those transfusions were the band aid we needed to bridge her to her own health.”
Blood Donors Give Something that Means Something
Now that Lena is healthy and cancer free, she is brimming with energy and her infectious laugh keeps her family wrapped around her little fingers. Experiencing the holiday season through Lena’s eyes has been a wonderful departure from what her family encountered while she was hospitalized.
Lena loves searching for “The Elf on the Shelf”, crafting, helping mom tie-dye her Red Cross blood donor t-shirts and decorating every inch of her home with holiday ornaments and figurines. A frequent pitter-patter of tiny footsteps sound when Lena and her two-year-old sister, Stana, race to taste the latest home-baked treat.
Make an Appointment to Give Blood and Spread Holiday Cheer
Every season, Red Cross blood donors have an opportunity to give something that means the world to patients in need, and the loved ones rallying behind them as they battle serious medical conditions. This year, many individuals are counting on perfect strangers to help care for their loved ones during the most vulnerable of times—while they’re alone in a hospital and undergoing medical procedures.
Blood donors provide the perfect gift that spreads holiday cheer far and wide. Lena’s father appreciates all who rolled up a sleeve to help his family.
“We are thankful for the selfless acts of blood and platelet donors who helped save Lena’s life,” William says. “Donating is selfless. You don’t realize the importance of blood until you or someone you love needs it.”
Eligible individuals are urged to make an appointment to donate now using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).
Blood, platelet and plasma donations often decline between now and New Year’s Day. Donations are urgently needed. As a special thank you to individuals who share their time and donation, between Dec. 18-Jan. 4, they will receive an exclusive long-sleeved Red Cross T-shirt, while supplies last.
COVID-19 Blood Donation Safety
Each Red Cross blood drive and donation center follows the highest standards of safety and infection control, and additional precautions – including temperature checks, social distancing and face coverings for donors and staff – have been implemented to help protect the health of all those in attendance. Donors are encouraged to schedule an appointment prior to arriving at the drive and are required to wear a face covering or mask while at the drive, in alignment with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention public guidance.
All blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients. 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.
Blood and platelet donors can save time at their next donation by using RapidPass® to complete their pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of their donation, before arriving at the blood drive. To get started, follow the instructions at RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPass or use the Blood Donor App.
**Offer applicable to presenting donors only during the following dates 12/18/2020-1/04/2021 and while supplies last. Offer subject to availability of donation opportunities in presenting donor’s area. No substitutions and not transferable by presenting donor. Not redeemable for cash.