This time last year I wrote a letter to the editor regarding the upcoming blood drive in memory of our daughter. On December 5 at Brookdale’s Collins Arena, our family will again, for the fourth year, urge the community to donate blood in memory of Ava. The Central Jersey Blood Bank will be there from 12:00 noon until 7:00 p.m. Last year we had 60 donors at the blood drive. Since each donation helps three people, 180 members of our community were given life-saving blood due to our donors.

If anyone reading this has ever been inside of a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for any reason, you know it's not an experience you  will ever forget. It is within this setting that my wife and Iexperienced the life-changing impact that blood transfusions can have. In October 2006, my wife gave birth to beautiful twin girls. They arrived during an emergency c-section required to save my wife's and my girls' lives after my wife had begun hemorrhaging. Our first experience with a blood transfusion was to restore the almost 1.5 liters my wife had lost prior and during surgery, but it was not to be our last experience.

Born three months premature, Ava and Mia weighed 1lb, 15oz each. They were stunning, not only visually, but in their will to live and fight for every breath. Despite their tremendous will, there were many factors threatening their lives, including blood loss. Premature infants lose blood due not only to the countless blood tests required to monitor their health, but also due to many unseen causes such as anemia and infection. Both of my daughters required at least 9 transfusions during their stay in the NICU. Our daughter Mia was particularly affected by anemia, but the transfusions allowed her to respond well and ultimately to thrive. Today she is active and healthy, thanks in no small part to many anonymous blood donors. Ava, though an incredible and inspirational fighter, was not as lucky. She contracted a serious illness at two weeks old, from which she would ultimately not recover. However, thanks to many blood transfusions and the heroic efforts of the staff of the Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of New York and her incredible will to live, my wife and I were given the gift of three months to spend with Ava. During that time, we got to know her, marvel at her spirit and got to witness the impact she had not only on us, but on the entire NICU staff entrusted with her care. Most importantly, we had time to hold her, time to enjoy her and time to say goodbye. Without blood donors, none of that would have been possible.

When donating blood, people understand that may save lives. What they may not consider is that donating blood provides something even more precious: time.

 

Robert J. Pellicone

Red Bank, NJ