Shakara's Story

Vitalant is honoring the strength, hope and courage of mothers and caregivers of children by encouraging those who are blood type O negative to donate blood on behalf of the area’s newborns and premature babies, as well as children who have been impacted by the need for blood donations.

One Chicago-area mom who is most thankful for the kindness of others is Shakara of north suburban Gurnee. Her 14-year-old son, Javon, was born with sickle cell anemia and for the past three years has received monthly blood transfusions at UIC Medical Center to keep the disease in check.

A blood donor since her days while attending Fremd High School in Palatine, Shakara is active in raising awareness for sickle cell disease and encourages people who are able, to donate blood as often as possible.

“I see the immediate effect it has on Javon when he receives his transfusions and am thankful to those who selflessly roll up their sleeves to donate,” says Shakara, who is also the founder of Javon’s Gift, a soon-to-be 501(C)(3) non-profit, raising much needed dollars and awareness for sickle cell disease throughout Lake County.

“You never know when you’ll need the life-saving gift of blood that can come from area donors,” she adds. “It really is the easiest way to give someone a second chance at life.”

Children as young as newborns can be greatly impacted by the generous gift of blood donations; as little as three teaspoons of blood can save a baby’s life.

O negative donors are rare but very special because their blood is the safest to use for intrauterine transfusions and to treat newborns, premature infants and those with suppressed immune systems.  But such donors are scarce: only 7% of the population has type O negative blood. O negative is known as the “universal” blood type because O negative red blood cells can be transfused to any patient in need. O negative is typically used in emergency situations when there isn’t time to determine a patient’s blood type.

While O negative is particularly important, all blood types are always needed as many children are impacted every day with the need for routine transfusions. Oftentimes, these transfusions are needed unexpectedly.