Agassiz parents Richelle and Dylan Gormley have a very special birthday gift for their daughter Rieylnn.
The Gormleys are organizing a blood drive at the Tzeachten First Nation Community Hall in Chilliwack on Monday, June 28 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
At 10-and-a-half months old, Rielynn, now 1, was diagnosed with type 3 von Willebrand disease, a lifelong, chronic blood disorder that makes it difficult for her to stop bleeding. According to Richelle, this disorder affects one in 500,000 people.
There’s a protein in the blood called the von Willebrand factor that helps with blood clotting. In Rieylynn’s case, there’s so little of this protein in her blood, it’s undetectable. To help her live a more normal life, Rielynn periodically receives a blood product made of the plasma of donated blood when she has bleeds that will not stop on their own or in the event of serious injury. Rielynn has received treatment four times since being diagnosed. Richelle added her experience with B.C. Children’s Hospital’s hematology team has been nothing short of amazing and that they area “some of the most wonderful people we have ever encountered.”
“It’s difficult right now because we find ourselves being helicopter parents and trying to prevent injury as much as possible,” Richelle told The Observer. “We are also trying to let her learn to do things on her own the best we can.”
Richelle said it can be difficult to handle the looks from strangers in public as Rielynn bruises very easily. Rather than being discouraged by Reilynn’s bruising, Richelle now takes them as a sign her daughter is growing and learning new skills on her own.
Since Rielynn’s diagnosis, the family decided to organize a blood drive every year on her birthday.
“Although she doesn’t need blood right now, being parents of a child with a blood disorder has made us realize how important it is to donate blood,” Richelle said in a statement. “Whether it’s blood or plasma, there’s always someone who needs it. Blood not only saves lives, but it also helps some individuals live relatively normal lives.”
Thanks to an outpouring of love and support from a network of friends and family and a campaign of education and awareness on social media, there are only a few spots left for the blood drive.
“The message is to not just to fill spots in our blood drive but to encourage people to donate if they can because they can save someone’s life, or make it possible for someone like my daughter to live a relatively normal life,” Richelle said. “There is a never ending need for blood donations.”
To learn more about donation eligibility, ways to donate and much more, visit blood.ca.