Wednesday, July 16, 2008

This Couldn't Wait until tomorrow -- Blood Donations Needed!

The following is about my cousin, Corey. He will be going in for open heart surgery and blood (type A+ or A-) needs to be donated. If you are in the Chicago area and want to donate in his name, please contact me: so I can let his father know your name and that a donation was made for Corey.

If you donate on a regular basis, thank you! Each donation saves up to three lives. If you have never donated, it is COMPLETELY safe, it is nearly painless, it costs you nothing and you can literally be a Life Saver!

Thank you in advance. The email is below:

Friends & family members:

I once again must apologize for the impersonal nature of this email, but as you can imagine it is impossible to contact everyone individually and we wanted to let everyone know what’s going on. As some of you already know, Corey is scheduled for his fourth open heart surgery on Wednesday, August 6, 2008. His last surgery was slightly more than two years ago, and while there are no guarantees in life and we knew this day was inevitable, it certainly arrived much sooner than we had hoped.

Because of the defect with which he was born, Corey’s aortic valve allows too much blood to flow back into the heart once it has been pumped out, causing the heart to work harder than it should and possibly resulting in an enlarged heart, which can lead to further complications in the future. We are very fortunate that to date his condition has not affected his development in any way or limited his activities. He is very tall for his age and as far as his doctors can tell, it does not appear any damage has been done to his heart. He is very active in sports and just completed two successful (and chaotic) seasons playing both baseball and soccer, making the respective baseball All-Star and soccer traveling teams. He does, however, tire more easily than your typical 7-year-old, and we notice a marked change in his demeanor and attitude when he does not get enough sleep. As you would expect, his doctors want to be proactive and deal with the situation to prevent any lasting damage to his heart.

Unlike his previous three surgeries, this procedure will be much more invasive and involved, as his doctors will be implanting a replacement valve in his heart. It is expected that he will undergo what is known as a Ross Procedure, wherein they remove his heart’s aortic valve, relocate Corey’s pulmonary valve to the aortic side, and insert either a cow or pig valve on his pulmonary side. The theory behind this procedure, which first came into practice only 15 years ago or so, is that it is better to have his aortic valve – which pumps the blood from his heart and is much more active than the pulmonary valve, which acts as a funnel for blood back into his heart – be an “original part” and be comprised of his genetic material so that it grows with him as he grows. The risk is that the pulmonary valve, which is not built to withstand the rigorous activity performed by the aortic valve, will fail and then he will have two replacement valves.

By its very nature, this is a very complex procedure that requires upwards of 15 hours in surgery and a hospital stay of one week, followed by another week of recuperation at home. He is missing the final week of camp, and our hope is that if all goes well, he will be able to start school on time later in August. I joke that after this surgery is performed, his replacement valve means he will no longer be Kosher, only because I can’t bear to think of him lying open on the operating table for that long.

With a Ross Procedure, Corey will be on a regular course of surgeries; because the replacement valve does not grow, as his heart grows the valve will have to be replaced. However, he will NOT have to be on any blood thinners such as Coumadin, which for a child (especially one like him) is extremely difficult as it limits them from any type of physical activity whatsoever. Once he reaches his late teens and his heart stops growing, his doctors can implant a replacement valve that could last him 10-15 years. Who knows, with the rapid advances in medicine, by that time they may even be able to generate a new valve or two from his genetic material.

Corey’s surgeon, Dr. Michel Ilbawi, is one of the leading pediatric cardiac surgeons in the world. We are very fortunate to have him located so close to home, as we have met many families who have come from across the globe to have him operate on their children. Having him in our corner certainly eases our concerns, but as with any surgery nothing is a given. We have the utmost confidence in Dr. Ilbawi and feel he is in the best possible hands.

All we ask from you is this: 1) that you keep him in your thoughts and prayers; and 2) that if possible, please donate blood in his honor to your local blood bank. His doctors have set up a direct donation program through LifeSource, and you can reach their Direct Donations department at 847-299-7386 to get screened and schedule a donation. We are required to have a certain amount of directed donors for his surgery, and Corey’s blood type is A+. Although several other blood types are compatible with his, Dr. Ilbawi only uses A+ or A- for the surgery. As I am an exact match, I will be the first and primary surgical donor, but others are needed as well.

Because he is a minor, LifeSource requires that Cheryl and I consent to any donation given in his name. If you can find it in your heart (pun absolutely intended) to donate, please let me know so that I can provide LifeSource with your name. They will be accepting donations in his name from July 23 through August 2, and you can give blood at any local LifeSource facility.

As I mentioned above, we are required to have a certain amount of directed donors for his surgery; through the love and caring of each and every one of you, we have always greatly exceeded that requirement. Even if your blood type is not a match, you can still donate in Corey’s name. Even if you live outside the Chicago area and do not have access to LifeSource, I ask and encourage you to donate as there is still a shortage of blood donations around the country and the world, and there are many other children like Corey who are not as fortunate to have the support and care that he does.

I apologize for the length of this email; you can have read the entire Wall Street Journal in a shorter amount of time. However, we wanted to let you know what is happening and ask for your assistance. We will let everyone know his progress at the first opportunity, and I promise the emails will be shorter. Each of you is special to us, and we hope all is well with everyone.


Cheryl, Russ, Max & Corey (& Maddie, lest we not forget the driving dog)

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