The Warwick Firefighters Association will host their annual blood drive on Sunday, April 13 at their Warwick Avenue home base in honor of Tyler Seddon, the 7-year-old boy battling leukemia whose birthday wish became a national story.
Tracy Titus, vice president of the Warwick Firefighters Association, explained that the organization hosts a blood drive at the 750 Warwick Ave. location every year around this time. This year’s drive will start at 8 a.m. on April 13 and go until 11 a.m.; all donors will receive a free breakfast.
While the Association members all turn out for their annual drive, Titus said it is not uncommon to see them at other blood drives throughout the year as well, supporting the Rhode Island Blood Center.
“You’ll probably see a couple of us donating at every blood drive,” he said.
To try and spread the word about this year’s drive, it is being held in honor of Seddon, who lives in Burrillville.
Seddon is looking for a marrow match to help in his battle against leukemia. He has always looked up to police and firefighters, so for his seventh birthday last month, his mom Rachel, a Pascoag volunteer firefighter, put out a request through social media for well-wishes or cards from first responders.
The request went viral, and thousands of first responders from across the country sent cards, toys, badges, keepsakes and videos to Seddon. Hundreds took an extra step, and headed to Wright’s Farm Restaurant to wish Seddon a happy birthday in person at his big celebration on March 6. A caravan of emergency vehicles came out to give Seddon his own personal parade, including representation from Warwick.
“We had an engine and a battalion chief in his procession,” said Titus, adding that he knows a number of Warwick firefighters attended the celebration on their own time. “It looked like a lot for a 7-year-old. He looked pretty tired by lunch.”
Since the celebration, a number of blood drives have been held by Rhode Island first-responders in Seddon’s name.
While there are thousands of people in need of marrow donors, Seddon’s story has done a great deal to get people out and registered, as well as donate blood.
“Any publicity is good publicity, whatever gets more people signed up to donate. It’s a great cause; it saves lives,” said Titus.
In honor of Seddon and to help find bone marrow donors for all those in need, marrow kits will be available at the Warwick Firefighters Association drive for those between the ages of 18 and 44 who are interested in registering for the National Bone Marrow Registry. Adults ages 45 to 60 can register online.
The Rhode Island Blood Center works with the Be The Match Marrow Registry (www.bethematch.org) to help patients in need find a matching unrelated donor in the event there is no matching donor within their family; according to information from the Blood Center, only 30 percent of patients have a matching donor within the family.
Be The Match provides help to nearly 12,000 patients annually who are suffering from leukemia, lymphoma or other bone marrow functioning diseases.
Registration consists of providing basic contact information, alternative contact information, medical questions, health insurance information, and a cheek swab sample. Legislation was passed that Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire health insurance companies are required to cover the $112 cost for HLA typing and processing.
Once the process is completed, a potential donor’s HLA type is posted to the Be A Match Registry, and they are contacted if they appear to be a potential match.
If a potential match is found, the donor must provide a blood sample and health history. Further testing is done on the sample to determine if the donor is the best match.
During a bone marrow donation, the blood stem cells produced by bone marrow are targeted.
Seventy-five percent of the time donors undergo a non-surgical procedure by receiving a daily injection for five days to increase the amount of blood stem cells in the blood stream. On day five, the donor provides their blood through a needle in their arm. The blood passes through a machine to separate the blood stem cells, and the remaining blood is returned through the donor’s opposite arm.
The other 25 percent of the time, donors undergo a surgical outpatient procedure, during which the donor is under anesthesia. The doctor removes blood stem cells from the pelvic bone through a needle and syringe.