When Beth and Matt Corbeau’s 2-year-old son, Jackson, was running a high fever two years ago, they took him to an urgent care center where he was diagnosed with an ear infection and prescribed antibiotics.
Several days later, Jackson’s fever was still high, and he was growing increasingly lethargic. Jackson’s parents decided to have him seen again. After a quick visit to Jackson’s primary care physician, they were advised that he was anemic and were instructed to take him to the emergency room. Five grueling hours later, the Corbeaus were introduced to a new doctor.
“As soon as she introduced herself as a pediatric oncologist, I felt the room get extremely small,” Beth Corbeau said. “I don’t remember anything that was said that afternoon after she said the word ‘leukemia.’”
In the first few days after diagnosis, Jackson received red blood cell and platelet transfusions to prepare him to have a port placed in his chest to receive chemotherapy treatments. He has since gone through multiple rounds of chemotherapy. He has received numerous units of blood and platelets during his treatment.
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. The American Red Cross is encouraging eligible donors to give blood to support kids, teens and young adults battling cancer — as well as others in need of transfusions.
This month, donors can “do good and look good” when they give blood or platelets with the Red Cross and get a free-haircut. The nonprofit is giving donors coupons from Sport Clips Haircuts during its annual “Saving Lives Never Looked So Good” campaign.
The National Cancer Institute estimated that more than 15,000 children and adolescents in the U.S. would be diagnosed with cancer last year.
Many cancers in young people are found early, either by a doctor, parents or relatives. But cancers in children can be hard to recognize right away, because early symptoms are often similar to those caused by much more common illnesses or injuries. Children often get sick or have bumps or bruises that might mask the early signs of cancer.
Childhood cancer is not common. Even so, it’s important to have children checked by a doctor if they have unusual signs or symptoms that do not go away, such as an unusual lump or swelling, unexplained paleness and loss of energy, easy bruising, ongoing pain in one area of their body, unexplained fever or illness that doesn’t go away, frequent headaches (often with vomiting), sudden eye or vision changes, or unexpected weight loss.
Young cancer patients may need blood transfusions on a regular basis during chemotherapy, surgery or treatment for complications. Cancer and its treatments can put patients at risk for low red blood cell and platelet counts.
Some types of chemotherapy can damage bone marrow, lowering the production of red blood cells and platelets. Cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma attack the bone marrow as well. Blood and platelet transfusions can enable patients to receive critical treatments needed to fight and survive cancer.
Blood drives are essential in helping to ensure enough supply is available for patients this winter. Those who give blood or platelets through Sept. 30 will receive a coupon for a free haircut via email several days after their donation. The coupon is valid through Nov. 11 at participating Sport Clips locations. Donors must have a valid email address to receive the coupon.
Donors are urged to make an appointment to donate using the free American Red Cross blood donor app, by visiting RedCrossBlood.org/sport-clips, by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767), or by enabling the blood donor skill on any Alexa Echo device.
Additionally, the Red Cross and Sport Clips encourage donors to use the hashtag #SavingLivesLooksGood to share their new looks and invite others to give.
Upcoming blood donation opportunities in the Tri-Valley are: Livermore – Friday, Sept. 6, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., at California Water Service, 195 South N St.; Pleasanton – Friday, Sept. 6 through Sunday, Sept. 15, varying times (typically with hours ranging between 7:45 a.m. and 7 p.m.), at the Pleasanton Blood Donation Center, 5880 Las Positas Blvd., Suite 34.
Today, 4-year-old Jackson is a living testimony of the gift that blood donation can provide.
“Our family is so grateful to blood and platelet donors who so generously make time to share their good health with patients like Jackson,” Beth Corbeau said. “It’s easy to forget about the importance of blood donations if you don’t know someone in need, but it’s something I will never take for granted again.”