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Saying thanks with birthday blood drive

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Margaret Plevak | May 30, 2014

DELAVAN-For her upcoming 40th birthday on June 4, Giovanna Zambito Moses is forgoing the typical party to celebrate instead in a special way:  one bag of blood for each year of her life, donated by friends, family members and community residents to the Blood Center of Wisconsin.

The decision for Moses marks more than a milestone birthday—it's a way to encourage donors, like those who helped her 2-year-old daughter, Katherine Mary Grace, who has acute lymphoblastic  leukemia. 

“Why blood? It's the gift that keeps on giving and I'd like to give a little something back to my amazing community, family and friends for supporting our family during my daughter's diagnosis and treatment for leukemia,” said Moses, a Delavan optometrist at Morrison Eye Clinic.

She is looking to sign up 54 blood donors for Forty4Forty. The blood drive will take place Wednesday, June 4, at Community Bank CBD, 820 E. Geneva St., Delavan, from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Moses attended Milwaukee's Marquette University, along with her now husband, Cevin Moses. Her first job out of school was as a medical technologist with the Blood Center of Wisconsin, working in a satellite lab in Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, cross-matching blood products for kids.

“I never forgot where it all started,” she said. “There is a lot of job satisfaction, knowing you're helping children get the blood products they need to stay alive, be it after an accident, during surgery, because of premature birth or disease, such as cancer. It's that last one that really hit home now.”

Katherine, who was diagnosed with Down syndrome, was a healthy baby at her birth in the fall of 2011. But last summer, Moses noticed unusual bruising and tiny red dots throughout her daughter's skin. Knowing individuals with Down syndrome are more likely to get blood cancers, Moses took Katherine to Children's Hospital, where she received the ALL diagnosis.

Overall survival statistics for those with ALL are 66.4 percent for people of all ages—and a 90.8 percent survival rate for children under 5 years old, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Moses said Katherine, who is in the midst of a two-year treatment for the cancer, is doing well.

“She softens anyone who is grumpy,” Moses said. “She is a delight to be with and is an example of true resilience in the face of adversity. I pray she won't need any more blood products, but we'll see.

The treatment has also become part of Katherine's routine now. When the family stopped at Children's Hospital recently to mark the end of a treatment session for another child they'd gotten to know, Moses said Katherine reached out her arm to a nurse, ready to receive her own admitting bracelet.

“We've felt at home at Children's Hospital, and my experience is that everything has been top-notch,” Moses said.  “It's truly a place you want to be if you were to be in a position like ours. The doctor and nurses have experience and the families we've met are a support group I wasn't expecting. They're amazing and they are all facing their own battles.”

Moses said the family is rolling with the punches, but grateful for the support of family and friends. 

“My family and I can't ever personally thank the donors who gave blood to Katherine while her need was critical, as blood donation is anonymous,” Moses said. “The blood collected by the Blood Center of Wisconsin stays within the local community, however, and this birthday blood drive is one way we can give back to our community who has supported us so well throughout Katherine's treatment. Giving blood is truly giving the gift of life, and having my friends and family help me do that on a big scale would be better than anything that comes in wrapping paper and a bow.”

For more information, check the event's Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/events/645705022166008/?ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming



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