Unusual gift is perfect for this baby shower
CHAMPAIGN — No baby blankets or booties from these women. Their shower gifts are far warmer.
A core group of about 10 women who work out regularly with Jennifer Difanis of Mahomet decided that the birth of her second son, Oliver, was worthy of blood.
Classmate Joan Price of Urbana teamed up with employees at the Mettler Center in Champaign, where they take a weight training class, to organize a blood drive in honor of Oliver Heath, born May 7 weighing in at a robust 9 pounds, 4 ounces.
Although he appears healthy, Oliver Heath carries the gene for a rare inherited disorder called chronic granulomatous disease, which afflicts his 2-year-old brother, Joe Heath.
It took months of testing before specialists pinpointed what was ailing Joe.
An online explanation from Medline Plus describes CGD as a "genetic disorder in which certain immune system cells are unable to kill some types of bacteria and fungi, leading to long-term and repeated infections."
In Joe's case, it caused him lethargy, severe anemia and the loss of a kidney. The only hope for a cure is a bone marrow transplant.
Difanis and her husband, Jeremy Heath, learned first-hand during their multiple hospital stays with Joe of the life-saving importance of blood transfusions. Joe's condition is now controlled with steroids and antibiotics. Oliver recently started on antibiotics.
So when Difanis' workout buddies said they'd rather give blood than blankets for Oliver, Difanis was "just thrilled."
"At St. Jude, there a kid was waiting six hours for a match to get platelets. He wasn't even there for a (chemo) infusion," Difanis said. "It's these sorts of things that remind us there is a huge need, not just for our boys, but for people in much worse situations."
A blood drive and bone marrow registry event for Joe's second birthday in February netted just over 70 pints of blood and 42 willing bone marrow donors for the Community Blood Services of Illinois.
The baby shower blood drive is planned for June 4 from 4 to 7 p.m. The blood mobile will be at the Mettler Center, 2906 Crossing Court, C. Up to 17 donors can be accommodated at the mobile that evening.
Donors are asked to register online in advance. Walk-in donors will be accommodated if possible but those with appointments are given priority.
Any potential blood donor may give any time at the blood bank at 1408 W. University Ave., U.