Palo Alto Weekly

News - February 22, 2013

Boy's death sparks blood donations

Rare O-negative blood type in demand due to influenza

by Sue Dremann

The death of a 10-year-old boy from complications following influenza has sparked a request from his family for local donations of a rare blood type.

Joshua Mark Hansen was like any boy until he contracted a Type B influenza and strep throat more than two weeks ago. A resident of Ausberry, Calif., near Fresno, he was a vibrant kid who played all kinds of sports and rode dirt bikes. But on Sunday morning, Feb. 3, he struggled to breathe and developed bacterial pneumonia, according to his uncle, Rod Hansen.

Joshua was flown from Valley Children's Hospital to Lucile Packard Children's Hospital in Palo Alto, where he was put on life support and received several units of rare O-negative blood each day, Hansen said. Supplies from the Stanford Blood Center were running low due to high demand from flu victims and winter accidents, so the Central California Blood Center in Northwest Fresno started a blood drive to help him.

Although Joshua died on Feb. 18 at the hospital, his family is encouraging Palo Alto and other local communities to donate blood of any type — especially O-negative — to the Stanford Blood Center to help other needy patients in Joshua's memory, his aunt, Missy Hansen, said.

While Joshua was at Packard, he used many units of blood from the Stanford center. People from all over the state donated 199 units of O-negative blood, and the blood bank received 460 additional units of other blood types in Joshua's name while he was ill, she said.

"Mark and Monica (Joshua's parents) would like to thank all of the people that worked on Josh. From the nurses, doctors, support staff. There were 100, Mark estimates. They are forever grateful for the care that was provided Joshua but also the care that was extended to them," Missy Hansen said in an email.

The family is also asking that people sign up as organ donors, as they saw first-hand the relief and joy a donated organ brought to another family while at Packard, whose son's life was saved after waiting for a month, she said.

While O-negative is urgently needed, all other blood types are also in reduced supply, Stanford Blood Center spokesperson Dayna Kerecman Myers said. The blood bank supplies Packard and Stanford hospitals, as well as other area institutions, she said.

Stanford Blood Center's supply became critically low in late January due to the winter holidays and the flu outbreak. The blood supply remains low, despite outreach to O-negative donors, she said.

O-negative is the universal blood type and can be transfused to anyone. It is vital for trauma patients who sometimes need transfusions before there is an opportunity for blood typing, she said.

Approximately half of Stanford Blood Center's supply of O-negative blood is designated for neonatal patients. O-negative patients can only receive blood from O-negative donors, and only about 6 percent of people have this blood type, she added.

Rod Hansen said the experience with Joshua opened his eyes to the ongoing need for blood.

"It's selfish of us," he said of not donating, adding that it takes little time and saves people's lives.

Hansen has heard from many people who donated for Joshua. Many said it was their first time giving blood. Hansen also donated for the first time and plans to become a lifelong donor, he said.

Persons donating blood must be in good health without cold or flu symptoms. Donors must eat well and drink fluids before coming to the center and present photo identification at the time of donation. The process takes about an hour, Myers said.

Donors can give blood at one of the center's locations: 3373 Hillview Ave., Palo Alto; 515 South Drive, Suite 20, Mountain View; or 445 Burgess Drive, Menlo Park. More information and appointments are available at http://bloodcenter.stanford.edu.

Staff Writer Sue Dremann can be emailed at sdremann@paweekly.com.

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