Brett, Recipient

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It looked as though someone—maybe one of his brothers—had taken a pen and put dots of red ink all over four-year-old Brett’s arms and legs. But they weren’t ink dots. They were like tiny bruises, and they worried Janet and Brad, Brett’s mom and dad, enough that they took him to the doctor.

The decision doubtless saved Brett’s life.

The pinpoints of red were petechiae caused by bleeding under the skin, and they indicated a low platelet count. Brett’s count was just 9,000. A normal count is closer to 150,000. Brett was in danger of bleeding to death from even a minor cut or blow—a nosebleed could prove fatal. The diagnosis was aplastic anemia.

Sent immediately to Kansas City, Missouri, Brett spent a week in Children’s Mercy Hospital. During 2006, he would be in one hospital or another 10 times, sometimes in Chanute, Kansas, where his family lives, sometimes in Kansas City.

In February 2007, Brett underwent a bone marrow transplant at Children’s Mercy. He and Janet spent the next seven months in Kansas City, waiting for the transplant to have its desired effect—recovery of his platelet count and hemoglobin level. Eventually, his platelet count exceeded 100,000, and his condition improved significantly, and he and Janet could return to Chanute.

The ordeal of Brett’s illness has taken a toll on his family. At times they’ve been forced to live apart, Janet and Brett in Kansas City, Brad and Brett’s brothers, Ryan and Matt, in Chanute. They’re still trying to get back to normal, but they’re all grateful to be home together.

Since becoming ill, Brett has received 37 whole blood transfusions and 88 platelet transfusions. Although he’s home now, he still has to be careful. He can’t go to school, and he must wear a mask whenever he ventures out of the house.

But he’s alive, and Janet knows that one important reason for her youngest son’s survival is the generosity of blood donors. “They saved my son’s life. He wouldn’t be here without them.”

Please share your experience as a blood donor or transfusion recipient.