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Family Holds Blood Drive to Celebrate 3-Year-Old’s Life-Saving Transplant

James was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia called juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia, or JMML

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Looking at 3-year-old James McCarthy now, it’s hard to believe the dire situation he was facing in August 2018.

“He was on a breathing machine keeping him alive. Almost lost him a couple of times,” said Dan McCarthy, James’ father.

James was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia called juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia, or JMML. Only 25 to 50 cases are diagnosed a year in the United States. 

“With JMML, there is no other option other than stem cell transplant,” said Rita McCarthy, James’ Mom. 

Thankfully, a perfect match was found and the transplant took place Dec. 6, 2018 - a date the McCarthys now call James’ “re-birthday.” 

“You get a whole new immune system and he actually has somebody else’s blood flowing through his body,” Dan McCarthy said, describing the life-saving process. "He needed so much blood throughout this, more than 100 blood transfusions."

That’s why the McCarthys are celebrating James “re-birthday” with a two-day blood drive on Dec. 7-8 at St. Andrew Church and St. Alphonsus Church, both on the North side. 

Holly Seese, marketing lead for Vitalant, the blood collection organization, says the timing couldn’t be better. Donations drop this time of year.

“It’s historically very low from this week of Thanksgiving all the way through the New Year,” Seese said. 

Making James “re-birthday” celebration even more special, the McCarthy family just got the name of James’ stem cell donor. He’s a 26-year-old man who immediately agreed to fly in for the blood drive.

“We can’t wait to meet him and give him a hug and have him meet James,” Rita McCarthy said. 

The McCarthys hope to have 300 donors give blood over the two-day drive. To sign up, click here.

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