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ESP Blood Donor Clinic shows support for Nathaniel

Posted: June 4, 2018

ESP Blood Donor Clinic shows support for Nathaniel

There was a wonderful sense of community at the May 18 Blood Donor Clinic at the East St. Paul Rec Centre and the reason was Nathaniel Shewchuk.
The clinic was held in the 15-year-old cancer survivor's name and friends, family and supporters came out in droves to donate and give life.
Steve Raizen, with Canadian Blood Services Donor Relations, said they had a target of 77 donors and exceeded that with 93, including 25 new donors.  Raizen called the results "awesome", especially given the time of the clinic on a Friday of a long weekend.
Nathaniel's mom, Kendra Nixon, was thrilled with the turnout and said many of her friends are now committed to being life-long donors.
Her own appointment was set for 3:45 that afternoon, and she said she was looking forward to giving blood again, something she hadn't done in the past year and a half while Nathaniel was receiving treatment for leukemia.
She said the idea to do a clinic in her son's name came through their experiences with other families they've met.
"In our involvement with and getting to know families through Cancer Care, through this similar journey, I had heard where other families would host a blood donor drive in honour of or in name of their child," Kendra said.
She started to spread the word around the community, and all responses were positive.
"We put everything out on Facebook, we went around to all of the businesses in the community and asked them to put Nathaniel's poster up, and everyone said yes, we didn't have a person who declined, so that was great."
Nathaniel was 14 when he was diagnosed in January 2017 with a rare form of leukemia.  He had an extremely low platelet count and low hemoglobin and received several blood transfusions at the time.
After chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant from 13-year-old brother Liam, he is now cancer free, but during the time of his treatment he received more than 100 blood products including blood, plasma and platelets.
Kendra said Nathaniel was extremely brave when facing his diagnosis.  In fact, the young man's thoughts were with others when he heard the news.
"Nat is a very strong young man - in fact, when he was diagnosed the first two questions he asked were, 'What is Liam going to do?' and 'How am I going to tell Ty (his best friend)'?" Kendra said.
"So Nat was more concerned about how others would handle his diagnosis than he was concerned for himself."
And turns out Liam was a pillar of strength for his brother too.
"We couldn't find a donor on the universal registry so we had to use Liam, although Liam isn't a perfect match.  They're doing these unique transplants now that enable siblings or other relatives to donate their marrow, which is probably different than a few years ago, it wasn't possible," Kendra said.
"Liam not once mentioned to us that he was nervous or he was reluctant ... in fact when he was in the operating room, the physician that performed the surgery said he's never seen anybody smile as much in an operating room as Liam."
Nathaniel said he was proud of his brother and his selfless gift has brought them closer together.
"Yeah, I would say so," Nathaniel said.
"It was special to me because I actually knew who it was and how important it was to me."
It was a special Friday night for Nathaniel and his family, topped off by the fact he got to go home and watch his favourite player, Mark Scheifele and the Winnipeg Jets, try to catch the Vegas Golden Knights.
The next East St. Paul Blood Donor Clinic is Friday, August 17, from 3 pm to 7 pm at the Rec Complex.
Picture from L-R:  Liam, mom Kendra, dad Calvin and Nathaniel


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