Throughout September, the American Red Cross is honoring local families impacted by childhood cancer by asking donors to roll up their sleeves and help.
Each year in the U.S., nearly 13,400 children between the ages of birth and 19 years old are diagnosed with cancer, according to the American Childhood Cancer Institute. In addition, cancer is the leading cause of death by disease among U.S. children between infancy and age 15. Despite these startling facts, childhood cancer research remains vastly and consistently underfunded.
At the Red Cross, the blood services team works around the clock to collect and process red blood cells as well as platelets that help cancer patients, and especially those with leukemia.
Thomas Raccuglia is one of hundreds of childhood cancer patients in the Tennessee Valley Blood Services Region who have relied on the generosity of blood donors in the area. When Thomas was 15, he was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
“It was scary at first and the I realized I had no other choice but to fight and have faith that I would get better,” he said.
During his treatments at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tenn., Thomas used nearly one hundred blood products. But after three and a half years of treatment, Thomas won his battle with cancer, though he understands he didn’t do it alone.
“If there weren’t people in the area who were willing to donate blood or platelets, I wouldn’t be here today. I never knew how important it is to donate until I was sick. I want to say thanks to everyone who donates blood and platelets. When you do that, you give kids like me a chance at life.”
Donated red blood cells stay on shelves for about 42 days, while platelets last only five.
The Red Cross needs about 500 platelet donors every month to meet commitments to local hospitals. Donors can make appointments by visiting redcrossblood.org/make-donation.