NORTH AURORA – Mother's Day was thrilling for Cassandra Forpanek because she had all three of her children with her – especially her youngest, who finished chemotherapy last month.
"I have three healthy children and I don't take their health for granted any more," Forpanek, of North Aurora, said. "I know there are moms out there who have lost their children to cancer. And t hat just makes me that much more thankful."
Her daughter Carinne Forpanek, now 7, was diagnosed in 2012 at age 4 and went through more than two years of chemotherapy. She has been in remission since February 2012, but her treatment continued until recently. Hannah Brazendale, another North Aurora girl, was diagnosed with the same type of leukemia at age 2 and completed her treatment in 2010.
Both girls' mothers are members of the North Aurora Mothers Club, which will honor the girls at its Sixth Annual Blood Drive 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, May 24, at Schneider Elementary School, 304 Banbury Road North, Aurora.
Donors can schedule appointments by calling LifeSource at 877-543-3768 or online at www.lifesource.org. Walk-ins are also welcome, but appointments are preferred.
Hannah's family has since relocated to Australia, Forpanek said.
The blood drive ties in with Chicagoland blood supplier LifeSource's campaign, which began on Mother's Day. It honors mothers and caregivers of children by encouraging those who are blood type O-negative to donate blood to help the area's infants, newborns and premature babies.
O-negative blood is known as the “universal” blood type because it can be transfused to any patient in need.
O-negative blood donations were critical for Carinne and Hannah who both benefitted from receiving blood transfusions, plasma and platelets during their leukemia treatments, Carinne's mother said.
"Obviously, without blood donations, children like my daughter would not be able to survive their treatments," Forpanek said. "They need these lifesaving blood products. Carinne’s blood, plasma and platelet levels were so low after her treatments. Having enough of this (O-negative) blood readily available was essential for her recovery.”
LifeSource spokesman Andrew McElroy praised the mothers club for stepping up to sponsor a blood drive, particularly for O-negative.
"We are encouraging everyone – whether they are O-negative or not – to donate blood because the supply of blood for all types is needed," McElroy said. "O-negative is the universal type. We tie it in with Mother's Day with a campaign: honor the strength, hope and courage of mothers and caregivers of children by giving three times a year."
McElroy said most donors give once a year, but if they step it up to two or three times in a year, the Chicagoland blood supply will be in better shape.
"O-negative is needed," McElroy said. "It can be used for an unplanned trauma or to treat diseases like leukemia. The percentage of the population that is O-negative is small, 7 percent, which is why the need is great."
McElroy praised the North Aurora Mothers Club for hosting a blood drive – but he encouraged any group or company to call LifeSource and do the same.
"They are just standing up and being accountable and giving back to their community," McElroy said. "It's a very cool thing they are doing. We tie it in with the tag of the strength, hope and courage of your mother."
Forpanek said she had not been a regular blood donor for years, because of an aversion to needles. But that has changed now.
"I’m really counting my blessings this Mother’s Day, and particularly for the LifeSource donors who regularly give blood,” Forpanek said. “Without their generosity, Carinne wouldn’t be here today. At the time she was diagnosed, I had not donated blood in years …. But in light of all the times she and thousands of kids in treatment have been poked, the least I can do is put my big-girl pants on and give blood."