« Mary Kneibel - Blood Donors Are Lifesavers »

It’s been 12 years since Mary Kneibel received heartbreaking news that her son, Patrick, was diagnosed with severe idiopathic aplastic anemia. The rare condition causes a person's bone marrow to stop producing new blood cells, and it is often a life-threatening diagnosis.

As the family nervously waited through treatments and an eventual bone marrow transplant, blood donors helped save Patrick’s life by providing lifesaving red blood cell and platelet donations.

“Blood donors were crucial to my son Patrick’s survival. Plain and simple, blood donors are lifesavers,” says Mary. 

The first sign something was wrong came during a family camping trip to Cheboygan in 2002. Patrick started the vacation with several noticeable bruises that the family chalked up to playing baseball. But during the vacation more bruising became visible.

At the urging of family and friends, Patrick was taken to an urgent care center where he underwent an examination and blood tests. The family returned home that evening, awaiting an unknown result.

The wait didn’t last long. Only hours after settling into bed for a night’s sleep, the family was awaken by a 1 a.m. phone call from the urgent care center.

“They told us to go to DeVos Children’s Hospital first thing in the morning,” says Mary. “They thought it might be blood clotting, but at that point we were in complete denial of the severity of the situation.”

The next morning a crushing reality set in. An oncologist at DeVos Children’s Hospital informed Mary that Patrick was suffering from severe idiopathic aplastic anemia and would need to begin treatment immediately.

“It was devastating news for a mom,” says Mary. “You never want to hear your 10-year-old son ask if he is going to die.”

Patrick and Bradley in the summer of 2013.Doctors felt a bone marrow transplant was the best treatment and luckily Patrick’s brother, Bradley, was a perfect match. The family would come to find out what a blessing the match would be after discovering how rare finding a match in the family can be. Nearly 70 percent of patients don’t find a match in their family and must turn to public marrow registries like Be The Match.

Even with the good news, there were still challenges. Patrick’s body rejected Bradley’s original donation and a second marrow donation was needed. The second procedure proved successful and was paired with additional treatments to further treat Patrick’s condition.

In the two years that followed, Patrick treaded slowly on the road to recovery. But as time went by he continued to receive a clean bill of health. Mary says the five-year mark was a huge milestone and such a relief for the family. Today, Patrick continues to be healthy and is a thriving 22-year-old.

“We’ll never know all the people who donated blood for Patrick, but we’re so thankful they did,” says Mary. “They were lifesavers.”