As a cancer doctor, I would say that blood transfusions are as essential to our patients’ care as antibiotics or IV fluids. Especially for kids with leukemia; they can’t get through the chemotherapy treatments without blood transfusions.
There are times when a child may need one to two transfusions per week for several weeks at a time. It’s an essential part of the supportive care they get in their treatment regimen.
Blood donations and great cancer outcomes go hand in hand. For kids with leukemia and lymphoma, outcomes are much better than in adults, and that’s because we can deliver more intensive treatments to children. But they need multiple blood transfusions to get through it, sometimes several times a month.
It’s how they can keep going.
Parents often tell us that the night or day after they are here for a transfusion appointment, their child’s energy is better, their appetite is better… everything is better.
For kids who get platelets, their bleeding comes down significantly after a transfusion.
Blood donations make all that possible.
COVID-19 has brought a lot of new challenges and made getting care really hard, especially for kids with cancer. Worrying about the blood supply when it is such an essential part of their child’s treatment really compounds the fear and anxiety families are already experiencing.
So far, we are fortunate that we’ve had the blood we need for our patients. But COVID-19 has added new obstacles to collecting blood donations and we’ve had to think about what would happen if that changed; it would be a real challenge if we got to that point.
I’m thankful for everyone who going above and beyond during COVID-19 and giving blood.
Like Dr. Tarlock’s young patients, Bloodworks’ own Bill Harper received hundreds of transfusions during his treatment for childhood cancer at Seattle Children’s. Your blood donations kept him alive. Listen to his story on the Bloodworks 101 podcast.