Picture yourself sitting in a dark hospital room staring at a bed in front of you while your daughter or son lies sleeping. You feel helpless as all control of the safety and wellness of your child has been stripped from you. You watch as they sleep and observe the tubes that come from their arms and chest. They are sleeping not because it has been a long day, instead they sleep because they are weak and sick and there is nothing you as a parent can do for your child. This fear is real and the only sign of assurance that you can give your kid is to be there when they open their eyes and look to see who is there. You need to have a strong face and look at them as though everything is going to be okay and that they are just a little sick and will be going home soon, maybe even tomorrow. You cannot let them see you shake or hear your voice crack with the emotion that is welling up inside of you. You have to make sure that they believe that they have a chance and that Mommy and Daddy are going to make everything better and that they will not be sick anymore.
That was my reality, and sadly I was not alone. I am not just talking about my wife, but about the many, many families that were on the oncology floor at Boston’s Children’s Hospital on October 31, 2008. Our daughter Ashley was admitted on October 29 to Boston’s Children’s Hospital and after a few blood tests Ashley was given an IV and was receiving the first of many blood transfusions. The fact was that she was so weak they gave her several whole blood transfusions over the next two days. I remember Halloween morning Ashley was prepped to go down to the operating room to receive a port-a-cath in her chest and to have a bone marrow aspiration and a spinal tap to check her spinal fluid. My wife and I still did not know what was wrong, but we knew it was serious. My brother came in to be with me during the procedure which was to take a few hours. My wife went home to be with our older daughter Emily.
The Doctors came out and let me know they were sending the samples off to be tested and they would have an answer for us in a few more hours. Ashley was brought up to the contagious disease floor. My brother went to my house to bring my wife back to the hospital. Ashley was receiving another transfusion and was sleeping from the medications and anesthesia that she had been given that morning. A good friend of mine had stopped in for a visit and was only there for a few minutes before the Team of Doctors came in to tell us of the test results. I had to grip the bed to keep my knees from giving out when I heard the words Leukemia, I am still and will always be grateful for my friend being there for me. He asked all the right questions as I stood there lost in another world unable to think or process what was going on at that moment. All I could think of was how, why, and that this was not supposed to happen to us!
Well reality is that it happens all the time to anyone, any child, any family. It may not be cancer, it may be another disease, or an injury. It could be a birth defect that needs surgery and more importantly it is your child and they need blood transfusions. This is how it happened to my three year old daughter, along with many other sons and daughters of many other families. I am not crying why Ashley or why me. To tell you the truth I only had to walk to the next room, or down the hallway, or to the next floor to realize it could be worse. Imagine that you child is fighting cancer and yet you can see that it could be worse, go figure, but it is true. Ask anyone who has had a child in this position, ask yourself.
This is why we hold our Blood Drives for Boston’s Children’s Hospital, because we have been there and we all know it could be worse. If there were no blood supplies, it would have been worse. If people did not donate a pint of blood every eight weeks, it would have been worse. If people did not take a few minutes to possibly an hour out of one day every eight weeks it would have been worse.
I sat there watching fresh whole blood go down the tubes and into my child while she slept. I watched her color change from pale to bright pink. I watched her wake up in her Halloween costume which she was dressed in and go Trick or Treating the night that she was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia on October 31, 2008. I learned that day the miracle that a blood transfusion can create, I learned that people that donated blood are heroes and don’t even know it. I learned that it could be worse.
Please come down today to the West Side Social Club 4 Harrington Ct, Wakefield, MA and donate a pint of blood to Boston’s Children’s Hospital between 1PM and 8PM you must be 17 years of age or older with a positive picture ID. You can donate at 16 years of age with your parents consent, your parent must be present and you will still need a positive picture ID. There will be pizza from Café Capri of Reading and Coffee and Doughnuts from Honey Dew of Wakefield. I hope to see you there.
Mark Cashell, Ashley’s Dad and President of the West Side Social Club, Stoneham High School Class of 1986
Our Drive is in the memory of Christopher Barnes and in honor of Ashley Cashell, Patrick Connolly, Jessica Downing, Gianna Martiniello, Anthony Stancato, Milana Rufo, and all the children in need of blood at Boston’s Children’s Hospital and the Jimmy Fund Clinic. To make an appointment you can also call me, Mark Cashell, at 978-604-9566, or email me at Meancash@aol.com If you have questions about your eligibility to donate please call the Blood Donor Room at Boston’s Children’s Hospital 617-355-6677.