Join Moms to Give the Gift of Life

The Kawasaki Moms of NorthBay Healthcare and their children pose with blood drive coordinator Katie Lydon for a quick photo. They are (left to right) Phlebotomist Dana Aleman, her son Levi, Katie Lydon, R.N., Eric and his mom, Elizabeth Gladney, R.N., and Jacqueline DeGracia and her mom, Phlebotomist Leticia DeGracia. The moms have made it their mission to try and encourage blood donations to pay forward the gift of life their children received, through treatment for Kawasaki disease.

The “Kawasaki Moms” of NorthBay Healthcare are on a roll, inspiring the donation of hundreds of units of blood in their quest to pay forward the gift of life.

Three successful blood drives were held this past spring, generating nearly 100 units in donations for BloodSource blood bank, and three more are scheduled this fall. Watch NorthBay.org for signup information and links.

All three Kawasaki Moms had children who suffered, but eventually recovered from Kawasaki disease. Phlebotomists Dana Aleman and Leticia DeGracia and Elizabeth Gladney, R.N., stepped up again this year to support the drives and raise awareness of the disease.

It’s a rare condition that causes inflammation of blood vessels in many parts of a child’s body, fever, rash, swelling of the hands and feet, irritation and inflammation of the mouth, lips and throat. Complications include coronary artery dilations and aneurysms.

Kawasaki disease is a rare condition that causes inflammation of blood vessels in a child’s body, fever, rash, swelling of the hands and feet, irritation and inflammation of the mouth, lips and throat.

Treatment requires intravenous immunoglobulin, which is produced from 1,000 units of blood. Dana’s son and Leticia’s daughter each required two treatments. So in all, the Kawasaki Moms’ three children used 5,000 units of blood.

“That’s a lot of blood to make up for,” says Leticia, “but we’re determined to keep at it. These donations will save lives. They saved the life of my daughter Jacqueline, and for that I’m forever grateful.”

Katie Lydon, R.N., director of Women’s and Children’s Services at NorthBay Medical Center, and Rowena Vince-Cruz, clinical lab scientist, coordinated the events. They organized the first drive in the spring of 2013 after a Dixon mother’s life was saved, thanks to emergency blood transfusions. A drive in April that year elicited the donation of more than 100 units of blood in a single day at NorthBay Medical Center.

The Kawasaki Moms intend to continue their support. “I’m grateful that NorthBay is willing to help us not only champion the donation of blood, but also to raise awareness about Kawasaki disease,” says Dana. “I’d never heard of it before my son got so ill.”

Levi was just 3 when a doctor at the Center for Primary Care in Vacaville diagnosed it, and had his parents take him directly to UC Davis for urgent treatment. The disease is tricky, because it can’t accurately be diagnosed until Day 5, and the window for treatment is short. If a child is not diagnosed and treated between Day 5 and Day 10, critical complications can occur, even death.

“I’m just grateful we caught it in time. And I want parents out there to know the symptoms,” says Dana. “Knowledge is power.”

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