If there is one person who knows the importance of donating blood it is Barrington resident Celeste Bailey.
During a four-month stretch from April to August in 2014, Celeste’s son, Carter, needed 42 units of platelets and 36 units of red blood cells while battling acute myeloid leukemia, a cancer in which the bone marrow makes abnormal, immature cells.
Carter, who was 18 and a senior at Barrington High School at the time he was diagnosed with AML, is now in remission. He is enjoying life as a junior at Indiana University where he is majoring in finance and economic consulting.
Celeste, along with her husband, Jim, said they are thankful for the doctors and other hospital staff members at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago who looked after their son during his long road to recovery. They are also especially grateful for the unknown who donated blood, platelets and bone marrow that was used by Carter.
As a way of giving thanks, the Bailey family, along with Vitalant, annually host the CarterStrong and Max’s Mission Blood & Bone Marrow Registry Drive. The drive has collected around 400 units of blood.
“I love the opportunity to pay it forward,” Celeste said of the reasoning behind holding the blood drive. “It also brings awareness that blood donations can be very important for people with all types of cancers.”
Carter added the blood drive is a good way “to help those in need of infusions.” “[My parents] noticed how many units of blood and platelets I received in the hospital and how there was such a constant need to continue to replenish the blood bank to continue to help those in need of infusions,” he said. “They started this drive to help.”
The drive is held annually around Thanksgiving, which Celeste said is the ideal time because two of the things she is most thankful for are Carter’s “good health” and his “very bright future.”
“We’re very blessed,” she said. “There’s no better way to give thanks than to try and help somebody else, because we were helped when our son needed it.”
Carter was diagnosed with AML in the spring of 2014. He began experiencing pain in his hip, groin and lower back in February of that year. An active teen, Carter initially hoped a weekend of rest would cure him of his ailments but when his condition failed to improve over the coming weeks, Carter was admitted to the hospital and a bone marrow biopsy led to the diagnosis of leukemia.
“My initial reaction when I found out I was diagnosed with AML was fear,” Carter said. “After having been in the hospital for close to week at that point and all the tests they had been running, we all knew that whenever we got the official news it was not going to be good. Actually hearing the doctor tell me that I had cancer was something else though. I was scared what the future would hold and if I would ever be OK.”
Carter said staying positive was a “tricky thing,” but having supportive family and friends helped while battling a disease that has only a 40 percent survival rate.
“I guess I am just blessed with an amazing family, friend group and community that helped me get through everything,” he said. “Staying positive is difficult to do on your own, but much easier when you have the help of others. Without the support of all these amazing people, I am not sure how I would have been able to stay positive throughout this experience.”