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How blood donations saved the life of 2-year-old with rare condition

Sarah Chance's daughter Charley was just six months old when she was diagnosed with a rare form of Leukemia. Sarah is now an advocate for summertime donations.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — This summer there is a big need for blood and platelet donations, and The American Red Cross (TARC) is asking for the public's help. They said all blood types are needed in Memphis but especially "Type O," which is known as the universal donor. 

Sarah Chance knows first-hand just how crucial these donations are. Her daughter Charley was just six months old when diagnosed with a rare form of Leukemia. Considering Charley's age, the experience opened Sarah's eyes.

Now she is an advocate for blood donations, raising awareness because typically TARC starts to see a drop in the number of donation appointments in the summer, which means there could be fewer transfusions for patients.

"It's hard to think about it in any other way other than my child's life was dependent on those blood products and those blood donations," Chance said. "If they hadn't come through, who knows what would have happened? She was only growing worse."

If little Charley wouldn't have gotten the platelets she needed, the blood wouldn't have stopped coming.

"Then her body couldn't grow and couldn't beat the cancer without those things," Chance said. "I don't know where she'd be."

In 2021, Chance received news that no mother would ever want to learn about their child.

"She was diagnosed with AML leukemia, which is a very rare leukemia for babies to get…let alone children. The average age is a 60-year-old."

AML Leukemia or "Acute Myelogenous Leukemia" is a rare and aggressive cancer that affects your bone marrow and blood. It also usually gets worse quickly, if not treated. 

"We would later find out that she had a high-form risk of Leukemia, so that meant regular chemotherapy would not be the solution and that would lead us to a stem cell transplant for her best chance of a cure," Chance said.

After going through multiple rounds of chemotherapy and a stem cells transplant, her donor ended up being her two-year-old brother Aiden. Doctors say, it was a one in four chance of them matching. 

There were still complications. As a side effect to chemotherapy, Charley vomited blood.

"On the fourth day of this happening, the nurse practitioner came in and said, 'We unfortunately do not have any platelets to give her right now. There are nine bags of platelets between the children's and the adult's hospitals and they are prioritizing the active trauma victims right now,'" Chance said.

After hours of waiting, Charley moved up on the list and was able to get one of the nine bags. Now, she's cancer free, and Chance is an advocate for TARC where the need for donations is high. 

One pint of blood can be used several ways to treat patients.

"It may treat one patient with a full whole blood transfusion, or it may treat many, because we can actually spin-off that blood to donate it to get small platelet donations," foundation spokeswoman Sherri Mckinney said.

TARC collected over 26,000 fewer blood donations than needed in May to meet the needs of patients.

Here in Memphis, sickle cell disease in the minority communities run high.

According to TARC, 65% of people who identify as Black or African-American in Memphis have sickle cell disease. 

The Mid-South Chapter Board will host a Sickle Cell Blood Drive in partnership with Memphis Parks at the Orange Mound Senior Center, 2590 Park Avenue, on Monday, June 26, 11 a.m.- 3 p.m.

For those who aren't sure if their able to donate blood, representatives will tell them once they come in if it's healthy enough for them to do so. 

For those that are able to donate, they'll be able to see where their blood goes and the lives you're impacting on the American Red Cross' app.

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