Giving life this Christmas

Andrea Gunn
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Family of young leukemia patient urges community to donate blood

If you’re still struggling with the decision of what to give this Christmas, Luke Fifield and his family have a suggestion … Give blood.

The Fifield family has had a rough few months as 13-year-old Luke has been battling leukemia, with the aid of blood donations. The Fifields encourage people to donate blood this holiday season. (From left) Maya, Caleb and Luke Fifield, with their parents Yolande and Tim Fifield. — Photo by Andrea Gunn/The Advertiser

It’s probably one of the easiest gifts you can give. It doesn’t money but it could be one of the most valuable things you’ll ever do. It could save a life.

Luke and his family know all too well the importance of donating blood and blood products.

The 13 year old was diagnosed with leukemia earlier this year and has been battling the disease ever since.

In April, people in the Exploits Valley came together to raise money for the Fifields to help with the many expenses associated with treatment.

Luke’s dad, local RCMP officer Tim Fifield, knows how generous the people of Grand Falls-Windsor can be and said he is sure the community has it in them to help meet Canadian Blood Service’s holiday goal.

“To us specifically (donating blood) is very important because Luke is a leukemia patient. He’s needed blood and blood product several times during the course of his treatments,” Tim explained.

Tim said because chemotherapy is so hard on the blood system, patients need transfusions regularly in order to have the strength to continue treatments.

Luke, who is only recently back at home with his family after spending time at the Hospital  for SickKids in Toronto for a bone marrow transplant, said the feeling after getting a blood transfusion is like someone recharges his batteries.

Luke’s family is thrilled to have him home for Christmas. After months of travel and treatment, a bone marrow transplant from his brother Caleb, 12, means they have a lot to be thankful for.

Tim said the whole family was tested prior to Luke’s treatment, and Caleb’s marrow was almost a perfect match to his brother. When they found out Luke would need a bone marrow transplant, they had a donor ready to go.

“We spent eight days getting ready for the bone marrow transplant; they basically wiped out Luke’s system and wiped out his ability to generate. On Oct. 3, they drew about a litre of bone marrow from Caleb. The process itself was pretty much like ... a blood transfusion, they just hooked it up to Luke and it kind of flows in over a period of hours,” Tim explained.

After 25 days in isolation, Luke’s body accepted his brother’s marrow. Tim said as of his last test more than 95 per cent of the marrow in Luke’s body was donor and overcoming his own cancerous matter.

“He’ been recovering since,” Tim said. “He’s getting stronger and stronger every day. His platelets (have begun) to climb, his ability to protect himself (has begun) to climb, his red blood cells count (has begun) to come up. So every time we go in it seems like it’s a little better.”

Tim said as someone who donated blood prior to Luke’s illness, he knows how easy it is to make excuses.

“You think ‘somebody else will do that’ and ‘there’s lots of blood out there’ or ‘I’m busy,’ but when you go through something like this you realize its importance because without it, nothing else continues,” he said.

Both Caleb and Luke said they hope more people will step up to the plate and give blood, and said they will be donors when they are old enough.

Tim said he will continue to give regularly, and has even placed himself on a bone marrow registry through Canadian Blood Services in case he is able to help save a life the way his son Caleb was able to help Luke.

“It’s not a speedy process by any stretch, but there’s an improvement every time. And we’re here because people gave blood.”

The Advertiser

Organizations: RCMP, Hospital for SickKids, Canadian Blood Services

Geographic location: Exploits Valley, Grand Falls-Windsor, Toronto

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