Family overcomes tragedy through blood drive

Losing a child is a parent’s worst nightmare. On Feb. 5, 2013 that nightmare became reality to the parents of Caemon Marston-Simmons. 

Marston-Simmons passed away shortly before his third birthday from myelomonocytic leukemia. 

Even though he received several rounds of chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant, he was unable to overcome his aggressive form of cancer. Last Thursday would have been Marston-Simmons’ fourth birthday.

In the midst of a terrible tragedy, Marston-Simmons’ mothers found a way to bring light back into their lives. By inspiring others to donate lifesaving blood and register for the Be the Match bone marrow registry, Timaree Marston and Jodi Simmons are giving other children, like Marston-Simmons, a fighting chance against blood diseases and cancers.

“When people think of blood donations they usually imagine accident victims,” said Marston.

However many patients receive blood transfusions every day.

“A lot of the blood that is donated goes to children with cancer. That blood saves kids’ lives,” said Marston.

Without the blood transfusions her son would have passed away months earlier and she would never have experienced those precious moments with him. Every second counts and she is eternally thankful for those who sacrificed in order to give Marston-Simmons more time with her.

The men at Nu Alpha Kappa fraternity are aware of the importance of blood donation and marrow registry, so they have partnered with Blood Centers of the Pacific to hold blood drives at Sonoma State University. The drive held on Thursday was in honor of Marston-Simmons fourth birthday.

Having blood drives at SSU is vital because it is especially important for young people to sign up for the bone marrow registry. They have the lifelong potential to be a match and are the most desirable candidates. Doctors request donations from younger people because they have more successful transplants.

“Even though there are millions of people on the registry, many die waiting for a marrow match,” said Marston.

According to the National Marrow Donator Program, thousands of people with cancers such as lymphoma and leukemia cannot find a match. Only one in 540 people who register actually end up donating to a patient.

Steven Lee was lucky enough to be matched and received two marrow transplants after being diagnosed with leukemia in 2009. He attended the drive at SSU as a volunteer and to share his story with others. His success is a wonderful example of the importance of donating blood.

“It is the gift that keeps on giving,” said Lee.

Lee stated that many people are reluctant to register due to fear of the pain. However, to be in the registry only involves a painless cheek swab and some paperwork. There are a few commitments when participants sign up though. These include agreeing to remain on the registry until the age of 61 unless a removal is requested and considering donating to any patient that is a match.

There will be blood drives in the Recreation Center on Oct. 25 and Nov. 14 and everyone on campus is invited to attend. They recommend donors eat a substantial meal before the donation and avoid strenuous activity for the rest of the day.

The pain of blood or marrow donating seems insignificant when compared to the possibility of saving someone’s life. Through these selfless acts, anyone can be a hero.

“What power. What a beautiful thing to give,” said Marston.