It was June of 2021 when our world changed drastically. And not for the better. Our 14 month old son, Andrew (AKA Squishy), was suffering from a bad cold that he could not shake. Along with a stuffy nose and on and off fevers, he had become lethargic, had stopped eating and was drinking about 50% of his normal amount. Our primary care doctor sent us to the emergency room for fluids and monitoring, and after they ran some blood and bone marrow tests, we learned that he had cancer. A type called “AML” or acute myeloblastic leukemia. The prescribed treatment was about 5 months of aggressive chemotherapy on an in-patient basis. As we adapted to our new life living in the pediatric unit of the Reilly Children’s Hospital at LVHN, Squishy was bombarded by powerful chemo drugs designed to kill off all the cancer cells. Unfortunately, these meds also destroyed most of his bone marrow and subsequently his immune system. He was extremely susceptible to infections during this time, and he did not produce his own hemoglobin or platelets.
As I said, our lives changed drastically. We have learned so much about cancer and the many groups and people who support cancer patients in the Lehigh Valley. We have grown so close to the nursing and oncology staff at LVHN, have met amazing parents, advocates and other cancer patients fighting this disease and become advocates ourselves for more research funding and charity for pediatric cancer. I have also become a serial donator of blood and platelets.
I have always wanted to donate blood. I never had before, partially because I have a busy life as a father and a demanding job, but also because I was averse to being stuck with needles. The truth is you make time for the important things, and I am embarrassed to say that it was never important enough to me before. It definitely is now. Squishy needed his first transfusion of red blood very quickly after diagnosis, and I made a promise to myself to go give blood. It felt great to make good on that promise, and the experience was really quite good. The phlebotomist had heard of Squishy and she gave me a huge hug and shed a few tears when I came in. The process was easy and quick, and the needle? It was nothing! Especially compared to what my sweet and defenseless little baby was going through. Since then, I have given platelets several times and red blood again, as well. Every time I go, I feel so good about myself, knowing that I have given of myself and helped someone like Squishy potentially have a new lease on life.
If you are here reading this and deciding whether or not to donate, please do it. There are many people who need blood products every day in the Lehigh Valley. My sweet little Squishy has now needed 5 red blood transfusions and 4 platelet transfusions, and he honestly might not be here to fight cancer if others before me did not donate. I am beyond elated to say that Squishy is now in complete remission with a great prognosis for the next 5 years, and I have made a promise to myself to keep donating for the rest of my life.