« The Franjione Family: Blood Transfusions Helped Save Lives »

Back in 1986, Midland resident Gregg Franjione didn’t realize how much impact blood donation would have on his life. Gregg just knew that giving blood was “an easy way to help out others,” but admits he “never thought about the recipients much.”  The company he worked for at the time – Dow Chemical – hosted blood drives, so it was a convenient way for Gregg to become a first-time donor.

Many units of blood and a few years later, Gregg and his wife Laurene became parents for the first time in 1991, as their eldest son Sam was born. Two years after Sam arrived, they welcomed second son Jesse, and their youngest son Benjamin rounded out their family tree in 1999.

Ben's Need For Blood

The joy of giving birth to Benjamin quickly turned to deep concern when he was diagnosed with Tetralogy of Fallot, which is a combination of four congenital heart defects. Gregg and Laurene were told that Ben would need open-heart surgery to survive.

Baby Ben, at only 5-months-old, was able to endure a successful surgery at Mott’s Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor in November 1999. The multiple blood transfusions Ben received were a big part of his surgery and recovery. This became the first time Gregg realized how important blood donation truly is; although he never imagined being on the receiving end.

The family was thankful baby Ben recovered quickly, and even though his heart health wasn’t perfect – Ben was going to be okay.

Jesse’s Need for Blood

As if one health scare in the family wasn’t enough, the words, “Hodgkin’s Lymphoma” took the family down another frightening path in 2004. Middle-son Jesse was 12-years-old at the time and the cancer diagnosis was a lot to handle.

Even 14-year-old Sam wondered, “Is something bad going to happen to me, too?”

With the loving support of friends, family, and even strangers, Jesse and his family geared-up for the routine trips they would make to Mott’s Children’s Hospital over the course of five months. Jesse received many chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and he also needed multiple blood transfusions to keep his blood counts at a safe level. But he made it through, and is now happily in remission.

“Every Unit of Blood Donated Helps to Save a Life – A Real Life”

Gregg has donated more than eleven gallons of blood over the course of his life, and yet he openly says that there is no amount he could ever donate that would offset what he and his family received through generous donations of both time and blood.

“Today, my wife and I would be the parents of only one child – not three – if it wasn’t for the gift of blood donations from others,” says Gregg.

The wonderful news is that both Ben and Jesse’s lives were saved. And the gratitude the family has is overwhelming.

Ben is now a thriving 16-year-old and has very few restrictions on his activity. He and his family are still gearing up for one additional surgery that will be necessary within the next 10 years (or less) to have a pulmonary valve added to his heart.

Jesse, now 22, is a healthy young adult, and has been cancer-free for 10 years.

“You can have the best doctors and hospital staff in the world,” explains Gregg, “but if you don’t have the necessary blood readily available – you can’t survive. This fact is remarkable to me.”

Gregg adds, “Even though you may not think about it, every pint that is donated helps save a life; a real life – someone’s son, daughter, wife, or husband. It’s a real need.”

The Franjione Family has experienced a lot, and now wants to help others. They try to pay it forward as often as they can. Blood donation is something they advocate for, even if some of them are medically unable to donate on their own.

Gregg has become an incredibly loyal blood donor; closing in on his 12th gallon, he donates every 8 weeks (a person may be eligible to donate whole blood every 56 days).

He challenges others to do the same: “It’s one of the easiest things you can do in your life that has the most extraordinary outcome.”