Blood Donations Are a Lifesaving Gift for Two-Year-Old With Cancer

DES MOINES, Iowa  --  A metro mom hopes her daughter’s story will inspire others to give blood ahead of Blood Donor Day in Des Moines.

Brooklyn Gehrls is becoming a pro at being a patient.

"She's got multi systemic Langerhans cell histiocytosis. It's a tongue twister."

The two-year-old was diagnosed with the rare cancer in May of last year, and the diagnosis has meant chemotherapy and many transfusions.

"She's had, in that one-year time period, she's up to 84 platelet transfusions and 61 blood transfusions," said mom Kerry Gehrls.

At a recent hospital visit, Brooklyn had blood drawn to see if she would need a transfusion. That would mean spending most of the day at Blank Children’s Hospital getting a gift that keeps her going.

“Obviously when we give her the blood transfusion, she's a much different child. She's got color in her skin. She's got energy. She's not just laying around all day," said Kerry.

A huge need exists for donors. A variety of patients constantly need blood products, and the hospital needs to have a consistent level on shelves.  Dr. Wendy Woods-Swafford, Blank Cancer and Blood Center Pediatric Oncologist, said, “There are days we don't have the supply that we need and we're told by the blood bank it could be tomorrow, and we're getting blood from a regional center."

Donating whole blood takes less than an hour, which includes the mini physical, actual donation, and snack afterwards. One donation can help three people. When the blood supply is low, doctors may have to prioritize who receives it first or whether an elective procedure needs to be delayed.

"Fortunately, those are limited times, but as we approach the summer holiday, that's usually a time when we tend to be lower on our supply," said Dr. Woods-Swafford.

As for Brooklyn, she'll continue needed transfusions.

"We're not sure how much longer she'll be consistently getting transfusions, but we hope not much longer," said Kerry.

Until then, they're thankful for the people who donate the life-saving gift.

You can donate this Thursday at the biggest blood drive of the year. LifeServe Blood Center and UnityPoint Health will host Blood Donor Day at two locations. Donations can be made at Valley West Mall in West Des Moines from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. or Capitol Square downtown from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. No appointment is necessary.