CHOC Blood Donors: Like Father, Like Son

Since 2006, father and son Jerry and Jeremy Wilcox have had a standing date every eight weeks at CHOC Children’s:  Together, they roll up their sleeves and donate blood.

“We both have the mindset that if we can help people, then we help people,” Jeremy says.  “We may not always have the money to donate to organizations, but we do have time and we do have the ‘good veins.’ Because of that, we are just doing what we can to help those in need.”

The father-son tradition of giving life together is particularly significant with Father’s Day this weekend – as well as the nearing of summertime, which is traditionally a season of low blood donations at CHOC Children’s and blood centers nationwide. At CHOC Children’s, donation rates are typically 20 percent lower during this time.

The Wilcox men’s multi-generational tradition of donating blood extends well past 2006: Jerry’s own father was a frequent donor, which inspired Jerry to begin donating in college. Jerry had a similar influence on Jeremy.

In addition to providing a way to help others, the Wilcox men’s regular donations allow the duo an opportunity to take a break from their busy lives and catch up.

“I enjoy it,” Jerry says. “It’s a chance for us to see each other at least every eight weeks. We walk in, there’s no wait. We get to talk for an hour, and we get great cookies.”

Jerry began donating at CHOC Children’s in 2005 as a participant in the hospital’s Designated Donor Program, which allows blood donations to be directed to a specific patient.

Jeremy’s long tradition of blood donation began in high school. Now the father of two small children, he has a finer understanding of the significance of blood donations in a pediatric setting.

“If my kids got sick, they’d come to CHOC,” he says. “CHOC takes care of me, and I have all the confidence that they would take great care of my children.”

Despite the steadfast commitment from the Wilcox men and other blood donors, CHOC Children’s is in desperate need of blood donations of all types year round. Donations meet just 65 percent of the hospital’s annual need, and blood platelet donations meet just 35 percent of CHOC’s need. To supplement donations, CHOC spends more than $1 million annually to purchase necessary blood.

“Just try donating once,” Jeremy says. “It doesn’t hurt, and it gives you a warm fuzzy feeling that you could really help someone.”

Learn more about blood donation.

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Emma and Ryan Find Special Bond at CHOC

When Samantha’s daughter, Ryan, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) at age 5, she wasn’t sure who would understand what they were going through. Following her diagnosis, Ryan was admitted to the Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC Children’s, a place she would call home for the next five weeks. Little did Ryan know that after only one day at CHOC, she would gain a friendship that will last a lifetime.

At the same time, Leigh Anne’s 5-year-old daughter, Emma, was undergoing treatment at CHOC for ALL. Samantha and Leigh Anne would huddle outside their children’s rooms in the middle of the night, drinking coffee and forming support groups.

The day Ryan and Emma met was very memorable to both girls; it was Ryan’s first day and Emma’s last. It was during this time that Ryan and Emma quickly bonded over their diagnosis. The girls would hold hands and walk the halls together, whispering about their doctors and what they hoped to get from the prize chest. According to their mothers, there was an intrinsic understanding between the two.

“The girls were like kindred spirits; they felt more comfortable around each other, which made receiving treatment easier,” noted Samantha. “It’s like, ‘she has a port, and so do I. She has no hair, neither do I.’ Commonality forms a bond.”

“They felt as though this was their journey and they were in it together,” added Leigh Anne.

Today, both girls are on the path to recovery and are receiving routine checkups and treatment at CHOC Children’s Outpatient Infusion Center (OPI), where they even plan their appointments around each other so they can spend time together. Although they only spent one day together during their time at CHOC, it’s been over a year since that initial meeting, and they still have a special bond.

Emma and Ryan, as well as their moms, will always be grateful for the life-saving treatment they received at CHOC, and thankful for the life-long friendship they made because of it.

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