Ellie Garside, 25, vividly remembers the night that her boyfriend, Logan Dunne, woke her up to say they needed to go to the hospital.
They were visiting her grandparents in Vermont and had just settled in after only one day in the summer sun. But a sudden cry from Logan drew them both back to reality. He had neuroblastoma, a cancer that forms in the body’s nervous system. And after a very long experience with the disease, Logan knew his blood-stained teeth and intense fatigue meant he needed a platelet transfusion urgently. They got up and hurried to Boston Children’s Hospital, about a two-hour drive.
The next day, he was back to his regular self. “It was as if nothing had happened,” recalled Ellie.
That was eight years ago.
About five months after their hospital visit, in January 2013, Logan died from neuroblastoma. And the memory of that “Summer of Logan” — the period before Logan’s health steeply deteriorated — motivates the Garside family to give lifesaving blood products regularly.
In the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday, Ellie and four of her family members — her mother, Barb, and siblings Ben, Hannah and Sadie — will visit the Kraft Family Blood Donor Center to donate platelets on Nov. 29.
“It’s a way to honor Logan,” Hannah said. “Also, the opportunity to give something that can save other people is very special.”
A Family on a Mission
Platelets act as the body’s bandages, allowing blood to clot and wounds to heal. Cancer patients and other critically ill patients often require transfusions of healthy platelets because their blood does not clot properly. Platelets have a shelf life of just five days, which is why the need for donors is so great. Volunteer donors help ensure there is a sufficient supply for patients in need.
The Kraft Family Blood Donor Center provides lifesaving blood and platelets to patients at the Brigham and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
“This year has been hard on so many, yet we still have so much to be thankful for. Around the holidays as people are looking to unite, the Kraft Center offers the chance for family and friends to come together, while socially distanced, to save lives,” Recruitment Program Manager of the Kraft Family Center, Molly McDermott said, “Hannah, who has a recurring appointment to donate platelets at the Kraft Center every other week, has always brought a donor or two in with her, so it comes as no surprise that we will get to meet the family this year, and we are so thankful.”
This Thanksgiving will mark Ben and Barb’s first time donating platelets, although they have both donated blood before. For the three sisters, this donation builds on a longstanding tradition. Hannah, a recent graduate of Boston College, reached a significant milestone not long ago: one gallon of platelet donations.
“In a way, it’s a celebration that we are all healthy enough to do this,” said Sadie, who’s been called a “platelet-tsunami” by Kraft Center staff who are familiar with her regular visits.
The Garsides have made donating fun. They text each other about how low — or in Ben’s case, how high — their blood iron is as a form of motivation. And they’re challenging each other to give as often and as much as they can through Barb’s 100-donation “Crocker Challenge” — a family challenge inspired by a 78-year-old family member who donated 100 times over the course of 60 years.
The family believes recruitment is just as important as their own mission to donate. This has become even more critical to them during the COVID-19 pandemic, when blood and platelet shortages have occurred across the U.S.
Ben, who attends college in North Carolina, works to raise awareness among his peers about the need for blood and platelet donations, often telling his friends, “You probably know someone who needs it, too.”