Two days after she was born, Zoe needed a blood transfusion. Transfusions for preemies are common because blood tests are required several times a day, and although the amount of blood taken is small, the babies do not have the capacity to regenerate it fast enough.
“She only needs one donor, because the amount of blood she needs for each transfusion is very small, but keep in mind that 80 percent of the adult population of the US has a virus in their blood, that doesn’t cause any illness, and it can be used for transfusions for adults, but not for preemies. So you might want to have several donors in case some of them have the virus,” the nurse told us.
Zoe’s blood type was 0 negative, like her dad. Jean-Marc rushed to the community blood bank. “I’m giving blood to my Zoe,” he said as he smiled eagerly. My mom, who was the same blood type, also donated. It was energizing to be able to do something, other than sit and wait.
Forty-eight hours later the lab informed us that Jean-Marc had the virus, but that my mom’s blood could be used for Zoe.
A couple days later she received her first blood transfusion, which was given over a period of three hours through a separate IV. Immediately afterwards, her skin had a nice pinkish color. She looked healthier.
The following month, Zoe needed another transfusion and my mom’s blood had been used. My sister Cecilia volunteered to find donors and sent out an email to some friends and coworkers, explaining the situation and our need for a 0 positive donor.
The response was overwhelming. People forwarded the e-mail to friends, who in turn forwarded it again. Cecilia received e-mails from people she did not know, who wanted to donate blood immediately. One of her coworkers who was in Seattle on a business trip wanted to know if he could donate in Washington and have the blood sent to Miami. The CFO of the company I worked for proposed to organize a blood drive in the office for Zoe.
The “Zoe Movement,” as we called it, took on a life of its own, and it was unstoppable. Weeks later, Cecilia kept receiving messages from people who had donated blood. We had far more blood that we needed and because the blood has an expiration date, most of it remained in the blood bank. It warmed my heart to know that so many people were thinking about Zoe, praying for her, and willing to help in any way they could.
Over the following 4 months, Zoe received 15 blood transfusions, two of which were given back to back, after one of her surgeries. At one point we ran out of blood of people that we knew, and we relied on the supplies of the community blood bank. Thanks to the kindness of thousands of anonymous blood donors we never had to worry about not having blood for the transfusions.