The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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September 8, 2013

Four-year-old 'wouldn't be here' without blood donations

When asked how many blood transfusions her son Owen has had since birth, Nicole Saidler furrows her brow, thinks for a minute and makes her best guess.

“Three or four,” she thinks.

But she’s not sure, so she double checks. She calls the nurse and the nurse agrees to dig through Owen’s chart, find out how many, and get back to her.

“The nurse called me back,” she says. “He’s had 13 blood product transfusions. ... I knew he was going to need some, but I didn’t realize how much. Thirteen blew my mind when I heard that.”

Thirteen. Whether it’s cells, platelets or plasma, little Owen, age 4, has needed blood 13 times to make sure he stays healthy or, in some instances, stays alive.

That’s why Saidler says she was happy to be the focus family for Mankato for this year’s Rock ‘N Roll Up Your Sleeve Blood Drive. The event, which features blood drives all over the country, aims to stock up blood reserves for cases when a person, such as a infant with a congenital heart defect, might need it.

When Saidler went in for her 20-week ultrasound, they discovered Owen’s heart had a double inlet left ventricle, a rare condition seen in about 5 to 10 of every 100,000 births. Because of his condition, Owen’s care was transferred to the University of Minnesota hospital, which is where he was born.

At 6 months old, Owen underwent two open-heart surgeries followed by a third surgery last March in which he experienced complications and needed several blood transfusions. A final surgery was scheduled in May 2013, but after prepping him for surgery, doctors determined there was too much swelling in his heart and postponed the surgery to October.

“The doctors feel that this surgery will repair his heart completely and he should be able to lead a pretty normal life,” Saidler said. “He may need additional heart repairs after he reaches age 30, including the possibility of a heart transplant.”

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