Consider this Quinn Bradley's thank-you card. Because it would be impossible for him to thank everyone responsible for saving his life.
For one, there are at least 141 people in Oklahoma who donated blood that saved him when his body couldn't produce enough blood to keep him alive.
And then there are the doctors and nurses who didn't give up on him when his organs were failing.
And then, there's something bigger than him.
“All these donors are great, all these doctors are great, my parents are great, but that's not why I'm living,” Quinn said. “They're all pieces of the puzzle, but that still leaves a big hole in the puzzle, and that's where God fills in the last piece. Can't complete a puzzle without the last piece.”
Quinn is a 14-year-old boy with an appreciation for life far beyond his years.
When he was 5, Quinn was diagnosed with Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome, a rare disorder that affects his body's ability to produce platelets, the cells that help blood clot.
It's a potentially life-threatening disorder that primarily affects boys, according to Boston Children's Hospital. Somewhere between one and 10 males out of 1 million worldwide have Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome, according to the National Institutes of Health. The condition is even rarer in girls and women.
Quinn was diagnosed with the disorder when he was 5. He was at the emergency room with a persistent nose bleed. Doctors soon figured out he had the syndrome.
Throughout his childhood, Quinn suffered frequent nose bleeds and, at times, would lose so much blood that his body couldn't replace it fast enough. At 14, he has had more than 100 blood transfusions, a procedure that replaces the blood his body can't make.
That's where the 141-plus blood donors come in.
Gift of donations
Throughout Oklahoma, there are a lot of people who have helped save Quinn's life.
Dennis Kelly is one of them.
Kelly, a 63-year-old Oklahoma City resident, has donated more than 23 gallons of blood. He remembers the day his dad came home and told the family he had helped save someone's life by giving blood at a hospital.
That stuck with Kelly.
He started giving blood in his late 20s. Until recently, he never had the opportunity to meet someone he had donated blood to.
The Oklahoma Blood Institute held a banquet on Aug. 2 in which eight of Quinn's donors, including Kelly, attended and met him.
Kelly said after meeting Quinn, he understood why his father was so happy that day almost 50 years ago when he came home and told them about the car accident victim he had donated blood to.
“I wouldn't even be able to recognize anyone I have given blood to,” he said. “But it's really nice to be able to put a name and a face to a time when I donated.”
Tracy Sowers, of Goldsby, was alongside Kelly at the banquet. She, too, donated blood that helped Quinn.
Sowers has given blood more than 150 times, starting about 15 years ago at a blood drive at a church. From there, she became a regular donor.
“It's kind of like when I donate, my incentive, the reason I keep donating, is I know I'm helping as many as three people when I donate,” she said. “And then I go to meet Quinn and his family, and I have a face and name when I donate. I'm helping all the Quinns of the world.”
Quinn no longer has regular blood transfusions. In 2011, he received a bone-marrow transplant from one of his sisters. His blood has now been replaced with her healthy blood.
It wasn't an easy process, though. Quinn describes 2011 as the worst year of his life.
In the summer of 2011, before his bone marrow transplant, he had to undergo chemotherapy to kill off his own bone marrow. In the midst of that, several of his organs shut down.
His body wasn't releasing enough fluid, and medical staff had to limit how much they could feed him. He was at The Children's Hospital at OU Medical Center for 100 days, and there was a point where his parents thought he might die.
“He pretty much put his doctors through their paces,” his mother Rosalinda Bradley said. “And I think he broke the rules, that he actually made it. To have that many things go awry, he shouldn't be able to tell you about it.”
Doctors helped save Quinn by using a process known as plasmapheresis, a blood purification procedure used to treat several autoimmune diseases. The process involves using plasma that has been donated.
The plasma that he received came from an unknown number of donors, more strangers he'll likely never meet to thank.
Rosalinda Bradley said it's hard to put into words the gift that so many strangers have given her — but if she could put them all in a room, her message would be simple.
“All I could say is, thank you for giving me my son back,” she said. “Doctors didn't think he would make it. We were counting down the hours until we were going to have to let him go. To be able to look at him living the life he is today, it's not anything of us, there were doctors and nurse that helped, and the blood donors that came and gave their time ... It blows my mind. We're just eternally grateful.”
BY THE NUMBERS
Oklahoma Blood Institute manages donations from more than 209,000 people who donate each year. However, of the people who are eligible to donate blood, less than 5 percent actually give at least annually.
Blood donors give more than 250,000 units of blood annually.
Oklahoma Blood Institute processes, tests and delivers those units to 144 hospitals across the state.
An average of 700 blood donors are needed each day to maintain a 3-to-5 day supply of blood to meet the ongoing needs of state hospitals.
Since red blood cells last only 42 days, and platelets last only 5 days, supplies must constantly be replenished by donors.
Source: Oklahoma Blood Institute