One Father’s Story: Your Blood Donations Gave My Son More Time

Written by Jim Taylor, platelet donor and father of a patient helped by Red Cross blood and platelet donors

I was never a steady blood donor, but I contributed maybe once a year whenever a bloodmobile came to my school or work. In 2010, I was working in the public relations department at Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta when my boss told some of us about a family she knew asking for platelet donations. Their daughter had a blood cancer of some form and wanted people to donate in her name to keep up the supply.

After I got going, I found out I was pretty good at it. In technical terms, I am A positive, but CMV negative and capable of producing a triple unit about every two weeks. So without too many breaks, that’s what I started doing — maybe 12–15 times a year. Until 2012.

THE STRENGTH OF BABY AARON

My son, Aaron James Taylor, was born on December 27, 2012. He was born a little early, delivered by cesarean section, because doctors were worried he wasn’t growing fast enough in the womb. At 4 pounds, 13 ounces, he was a pretty healthy baby. He looked cute as can be, and other than a few minor concerns, appeared to be doing well. His lower birth weight qualified him for automatic monitoring in the Piedmont Atlanta Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

After a few sets of tests, it became apparent something was not normal. His body was not able to get rid of bilirubin and there were elevated enzyme levels from the liver. He received daily transfusions of blood, platelets and plasma. On January 4, hepatologists at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egelston requested he be transferred into their care. After further confirmation, it was apparent he had a very rare, severe liver condition called neonatal hemochromatosis.

Not much is known about this rare disease and the only viable treatment is liver transplant. On January 12, Aaron got a second chance at life with a liver transplant. However, complications caused that donor liver to fail. A second transplant on January 27 was also unsuccessful, and Aaron passed away on February 19, 2013.

Aaron was small, but he was incredibly strong, just like his namesake in the Bible, Koran and Torah. I don’t say that just as a proud father, but as a witness to his will to live. His doctors were amazed at the many times he pulled through, but in the end we knew we had to let him go.

Losing a child can be incredibly hard on marriages and families. But his life brought our family together and serves as a daily reminder of the love we should have towards one another.

HELPING A CHILD LIKE AARON

Aaron received 115 individual blood products during his lifetime. Packed red cells and plasma were frequent, but because of his liver’s inability to function properly and the trauma of surgery on a 5-pound baby, platelets gave Aaron time every day of his life. One day his nurse was going over his numbers with us and her brow raised when she mentioned he would need platelets again soon. The hospital blood bank was empty, she recalled.

Aaron received his platelets that evening, but this worry became a daily stress on my family during what was already a living nightmare. As soon as my wife, Shrestha, recovered from childbirth within a few weeks, I decided to begin platelet donations again. My family began donating platelets and blood too. It was the only time I felt like I was gaining any ground in helping my son. It continues to be a catharsis even now.

When I donate, I feel a direct connection to Aaron, just like I felt a connection to the anonymous people whose gifts kept Aaron alive. For me, donation sessions are times of meditation. I think about Aaron. I wonder if he is proud of me and if he knows how much I love him. I think about my platelets and where they will go as soon as the donation is over. I like to think some of it will help a child like Aaron and I hope that child’s parents will worry a little less because of this small contribution.

Donating blood can save lives. I’ve seen it happen in my work and I’ve seen it happen in my personal life. I just finished up donating over 16 gallons of platelets since Aaron passed and hope to keep it up the rest of my life.

I know my Red Cross donation center and the people there well. Most of them know me and why I am there. They do a great job and are always professional. But I can tell when they worry. I can tell when fewer donors are coming in. I ask them and they admit when things are bad.

IF I COULD TELL POTENTIAL DONORS SOMETHING…

When the Red Cross says there is a shortage, they are not exaggerating. I now know from experience they are saying, in part, that somewhere there is a father waiting on the donation that will save his son’s life. When the Red Cross asks for help, what that means is a new dad is praying for a miracle. These are things we cannot dismiss.

Healthcare professionals cannot succeed without the right tools and supplies. Blood does not come from a fancy medical factory — it comes from generous donors. We must all do what we can to protect and save human life because one day we may find ourselves praying for a donor.

Find out more about Red Cross blood and platelet donations.

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