Valentine’s Day Blood Drive Takes On New Meaning For Gainesville Residents

By on February 13th, 2014

On Valentine’s Day, a 10-month-old will receive a second lease on life.

When Mason Silva was 5 months old, a fever became a whirlwind series of tests that resulted in a diagnosis of leukemia. He has been in and out of the hospital for transfusions and bone marrow biopsies since then.

“I thought cancer happened to older people,” said Kevin Silva, Mason’s father.

After all of these procedures, Mason will finally receive a bone marrow transplant from a donor in Germany at Boston Children’s Hospital on Feb. 14.

More than 1,000 miles away, Mason’s grandparents, Tom and Sue Silva, are honoring him in Gainesville. They wanted to travel to Boston to be with their grandson during his transplant, but he will be in isolation after the procedure.

To make up for not being with him, Tom and Sue are hosting a blood drive on the day of Mason’s transplant from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the LifeSouth Community Blood Center Headquarters, which is located at 4039 W. Newberry Road.

Tom and Sue have worked at LifeSouth for 12 years. They said they never realized how important blood donations were until learning about Mason’s illness.

“It’s not the way we would have wanted to get the wake-up call,” Sue said.

“But we’re trying to put the word out there to pay it forward,” Tom said. “It really hits home.”

People who are able to donate blood can give every eight weeks. Tom said he probably gave more than three gallons of blood until he started taking medications two years ago. The medications prevented him from donating, but now he is finally able to give again.

“On Valentine’s Day, for Mason, I’m donating blood,” he said.

An estimated 500 children younger than 15 will be diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in 2014, the same condition as Mason, according to the American Cancer Society.

Gary Kirkland, media specialist and photographer at LifeSouth, said one blood donation can save as many as three lives.

“Over at Shands, we’ve got lots of Masons,” he said.

The upcoming blood drive is just one of many that will help people in need of blood, marrow or other types of donations in Gainesville and surrounding cities.

According to LifeSouth, 4.5 million Americans need a blood transfusion each year. More than 44,000 blood donations are needed daily.

Laura Bialeck, LifeSouth district community development coordinator for the North Florida District Headquarters, said she expects many donations on Valentine’s Day in honor of Mason.

“When a family or person comes forward and shares their story, it becomes that much more powerful,” she said.

Even after all of these hardships, Kevin and mother Alissa said Mason is a happy-go-lucky baby whose new favorite activity is blowing raspberries. After Mason’s transplant, each day will be celebrated as a milestone, but Valentine’s Day will continue to hold an extra special place in the hearts of the Silva family.

“The day that Mason’s life is being changed by a stranger, they’re going to have all this extra blood that’s going to go to children or adults,” Alissa said. “Mason’s experience can potentially save so many more lives.”


This entry was posted in Health and Science and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

More Stories in Health and Science

Photo by Sarah Kimbro.

CDC Hopes This Year’s Flu Shots Will Be More Effective

Experts predict that this year’s flu shot will be more effective at combatting the flu strain than in year’s past. They recommend visiting clinics or local drug stores to get vaccinated in early October, before the peak of flu season.

Dorothy Mitchell (far right) listens to Herman Hale, the director of nursing at the Florida Department of Health in Marion County, explain that keeping the 911 dispatcher on the phone while administering CPR can help them best assess the situation before they arrive. The Florida Department of Health partnered with several organizations to train citizens and employees of Florida counties in Hands-Only CPR.

Marion County Offers Free Hands-Only CPR Training

Marion County is one of 67 counties offering free Hands-On CPR training through the Florida Department of Health for World Heart Day. Partnering with the American Heart Association, the goal is to raise awareness of heart disease and shed light on how CPR can double or even triple the survival rate of a victim.

Peanut Corporation Owner Faces Life Sentence For Salmonella Outbreak

Steve Parnell, the owner of the Peanut Corporation of America was sentenced to 28 years in prison due to a salmonella outbreak. The outbreak was due to the company not following food sanitation rules, said Keith Schneider, a professor in UF’s College of Food Science and Human Nutrition.

Flavored Hand Sanitizers Dangers

Hand Sanitizer Leads to Increased Cases of Alcohol Poisoning

Hand sanitizer is supposed to stop people from getting sick from the flu, but small children are becoming sick from drinking the stuff, which smells good and comes in bright colors that appeal to them.

Unitarian Universalist Fellowship

Guide Helps Transgender Community Connect With Health Care Providers

A new comprehensive guide published by TransAction Florida seeks to connect members of the transgender community with qualified doctors and other health care providers and resources.

Thank you for your support

WUFT depends on the support of our community — people like you — to help us continue to provide quality programming to North Central Florida.
Become a Sustainer
I want to support FM 89.1/NPR
I want to support Florida's 5/PBS
Donate a Vehicle
Underwriting Payments