Like many teenage girls, Karli can often be
found with her cell phone glued to her hand, but it wasn’t that
long ago when seemingly typical teen was in the fight of her
In October 2010 Karli felt a lump in her leg. She and her family
through it was just a pulled muscle, but when the lump didn’t fade
her parents took her to the doctor where Karli was diagnosed with
osteosarcoma, a cancerous bone tumor.
Though she was just ten years old Karli says she wasn’t sacred
because being scared would just make things worse.
Karli spent the next few months in and out of the hospital
undergoing chemotherapy and receieving multiple blood and platelet
Dr. Robert Sutphin is a Pediatric Hematology Oncologist at Arnold
Palmer Hospital in Orlando. He says, “Having Florida’s Blood
Centers available for the treatment of cancers is vitally
important. Blood transfusions are an important part of what we do
and it allows the children to resume a normal lifestyle. It allows
us to bring their blood levels up to safe levels for additional
chemotherapy which is the real important part of their
Karli says the blood and platelets from donors helped her feel
better during the course of her treatment. She says, “People don’t
understand like just how much it makes you feel better. You’ll be
lightheaded and nauseous and just feel really grubby and then once
you get the infusion you feel just like normal.”
Karli is doing much better today. She’s 13 years old and will be a
freshman in high school soon. Her father is spearheading the 2012
Central Florida Hotel and Lodging Associations Summer Challenge
Blood Drive to help other patients going through the same
experience as his daughter.
Mike Myers loves taking care of his
granddaughters and watching them grow up. This retiree spent years
working for an airline before joining Florida’s Blood Centers as a
recruiter. As a recruiter Mike practiced what he preached. He
wanted to give at least 30 gallons of blood, but when he was just a
gallon shy of that goal he got sick during a company awards
ceremony. He looked pale and began sweating profusely, so his
co-workers insisted he go to the hospital.
After undergoing a battery of tests Myers learned that he had two
blocked arteries and needed triple bypass surgery. Shortly after
that operation Myers went from being a blood donor to a blood
Myers was on the road to recovery and was starting to get back into
the swing of things when illness struck again.
He said, “I woke up in the middle of the night about 2:30 in the
morning…heart pounding out of my chest, difficulty breathing, so I
went to the hospital because we thought it was my heart again and
it wasn’t…I was in the hospital for 11 days and they did a bunch of
tests and that’s when we found out that I had pulmonary
Pulmonary fibrosis is scarring or thickening of the lungs and
most patients are only given about two to five years to live.
Myers says he takes it day by day relying on his faith to get him
Myers received blood for a second time in the Fall of 2011 after
learning he had lost 30% of the blood in his body.
He says, “I felt like I was 20 years old again, so I got a total of
four units and thank God, if I hadn’t had those units of blood I
don’t think I’d be here today.”
That’s why Myers encourages everyone to get out and donate
A blood drive will be held on Sunday, January 8, 2012 at Center
Point Church in Palm Bay from 8am-1pm in honor of Myers.
Book an appointment
When Daniel Stephens was born several
weeks premature, doctors told his parents he wouldn’t live through
the night. His parents were devastated. When he survived until
morning, the doctors said he won’t make it a week. When he survived
a week and then a month, doctors said his maximum life-span would
be 18 months.
Once again, Daniel beat the odds. Today, Daniel is a happy young
man who loves video games and playing basketball. He’s also getting
ready to celebrate his 12th
Daniel suffers from scoliosis as well as kyphosis, which means his
spine twists and turns and curves at the top. Daniel’s been in the
operating room 28 times, mostly for back surgery to lengthen his
growing rods. If they can’t stop the progression of the spinal
conditions Daniel will eventually suffocate.
Daniel’s family and friends say he’s truly a miracle child and
that’s why Tailored Foam in Sanford decided to celebrate his
birthday by hosting a blood drive in his honor.
Daniel’s mother, Dawn Stephens says, “Daniel was like what, that’s
for me? He was so excited and just tickled that they would actually
give blood that he could one day use, if he has his surgery coming
up in December. He was so excited that people loved him that
So far, Daniel’s only needed a plasma transfusion, but his family
is grateful to blood donors who ensure that there is blood on hand
in case Daniel needs it during a procedure.
Like many five-year-old girls, Katie Begin
loves playing on her swing, practicing ballet and hosting tea
parties for her stuffed animals, but when she plays hospital it’s
much more than make believe.
Unfortunately, Katie is very familiar with hospitals. Doctors
diagnosed her with aplastic anemia back in March of 2011 and she’s
been in and out of medical facilities ever since.
Aplastic anemia is a rare disorder in which the bone marrow doesn’t
produce sufficient new cells to replenish blood cells.
Her father Joseph Begin says, “I think as a dad with your little
girl the first thing you want to do is….I need to fix this because
I’m a dad it’s my job to fix this and I couldn’t….it was too big
for me. I didn’t know how to fix it and then I thought well the
doctors will know how to fix it…it’s okay…so she has aplastic
anemia…give her whatever medicine she needs and we’ll get better
and it’s not that easy.”
Katie spent weeks in the hospital undergoing immunosuppressant
therapy and receiving multiple blood and platelet transfusions.
Joseph says, “Every time those nurses come in with that blood or
those platelets…I thank God for those people that took the time to
go down there and do that. They don’t know Katie…they’re just going
down out of the generosity of their heart and just doing this and
they don’t realize that they saved this little girl’s life.”
Katie still sees a doctor once a week, but she’s doing a lot better
today. Though she hasn’t received a blood or platelet transfusion
in a while, her family knows there may be more in the future and
they are grateful to donors who literally gave Katie the gift of
As ten-year-old Denali Botolino plays
with his brother and sisters along the beaches of Palm Beach County
it’s evident that he’s not the same child he used to be.
Denali’s mother, Donatella Botolino, said, “His personality has
completely changed; He’s definitely not as outgoing as he used to
be. Unfortunately, the poor baby hates his appearance. He hates
that he’s bald.”
His father, Ricky Botolino, says, “He’s not the same little boy he
was. He doesn’t go to school every day. He……..it’s just taken
everything away from him. His childhood. His innocence. His
everything…stuff kids shouldn’t even have to worry about, he
worries about. Stuff adults shouldn’t have to worry about-he
19 months ago Denali’s mother noticed that he started turning
yellow. Everything from his skin tone to the whites of his eyes
were a shade of yellow. Doctors thought he had hepatitis and told
his mother that the disease would have to run its course.
After a week Denali appeared to be getting worse, so his mother
took him to the hospital where they discovered a mass in his
abdomen. That mass turned out to be pancreatic cancer.
Denali spent two months in the hospital undergoing chemotherapy in
the hopes it would shrink the tumor enough to where it could be
surgically removed. He needed massive doses of blood and platelets
to sustain life during treatment.
Once the tumor was removed Denali seemed to be doing better. Even
the residual tumor appeared to be responding to treatment. However,
in May of 2011 the cancer came back and this time it spread.
Denali is once again undergoing chemotherapy and awaiting
His family is holding a fundraiser and blood drive in Denali’s
honor in conjunction with Florida's Blood Centers on October 8 at
Dwight D. Eisenhower Elementary School in Palm Beach Gardens from
in Honor of Tatum
I’ve met a lot of courageous children over
the past year, but five-year-old Tatum Cempella will truly melt
your heart. She is one of the most energetic and outgoing
little girls I’ve ever met. When she answered the door I told
her it was cool that we were both wearing pink tops and white
skirts. She looked at me and explained that she is very
Fashionable may be a big word for most five-year-olds, but Tatum
knows a whole string of words most kids her age have never heard
of, including platelets, chemotherapy and leukemia.
Approximately three years ago, Tatum and her mother, Melissa, spent
the day at Sea World playing with the dolphins when red spots
appeared on Tatum’s hands.
She made a mental note to ask the doctor about the redness during
Tatum’s check-up at the pediatrician’s office the next day.
She figured Tatum suffered from pitikia, which is bleeding under
the skin, but when Tatum’s blood test’s came back, their lives
changed forever. Tatum had leukemia.
Doctors admitted Tatum to the hospital where she began
Tatum calls the blood and platelets she received during treatment
red and white snakes. She says she knew the red snake was
blood, but she wasn’t too sure what the white snake was because she
was only two-years-old at the time.
Melissa says, “After she would get the blood transfusion she would
perk up immediately. It really made a difference and she just
had more energy and her color looked great and you could tell the
difference within hours.”
Losing her hair was traumatic for Tatum. Melissa says Tatum
had to wear really fancy dresses all the time because she wanted
people to know that she was a girl. She recalls a trip to
Disney World when Tatum asked her to buy her a Snow White Princess
dress and she said no because it was expensive. Tatum looked
at her and said she wanted the dress because she was ugly without
hair and nobody would know she was girl. Needless to say,
Tatum got the dress.
Credits FBC for Saving His Life
Kurt and Jacob Prosser have been a close
father/son team since Jacob was a little boy. They enjoy spending
time together and playing games, but of all the things they have in
common they never imagined a life-threatening
illness would be one of them.
When Jacob turned 16 he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps
by being a blood donor because his father hadn’t been able to
donate since he was diagnosed with cancer back in 2005.
He was excited to board the Big Red Bus at Atlantic High School,
but when he attempted to donate, a phlebotomist discovered that
Jacob’s hemoglobin levels were extremely low. Jacob was deferred
from donating and referred to his family physician.
At first, doctors thought Jacob was suffering from anemia and
recommended a high iron diet as well as supplements, but his
condition got worse.
Jacob was eventually rushed to the hospital and diagnosed with
aplastic anemia, a condition in which the bone marrow does not
produce sufficient new cells to replace blood cells.
He spent the next seven months undergoing aggressive chemotherapy,
fighting for his life in the hospital.
He received about 80 blood and platelet transfusions to help him
get through treamtment.
Kurt said, “There were a couple of times when I had thoughts of
having to bury my son…..and for any parent to have to go through
that is very difficult…you just wish it was you instead.”
Fortunately, the treatment worked and Jacob is now a senior in high
He credits Florida’s Blood Centers for saving his life by catching
his condition early and is grateful to blood donors who literally
gave him the gift of life.
“They really are heroes. They do a great thing. They’re probably
not thinking about it and you know, there are other people who’ve
been touched by blood transfusions or even the donors themselves
have gotten transfusions. There needs to be a lot more people who
donate because I know I got a lot of blood and there are a lot of
people that get blood,” Jacob said.
Like many three-year-old boys, Enzo Grande
is normally a bundle of energy. He enjoys riding his bike and
playing with his twin sister, Larissa.
When he began feeling tired and looking pale his parents knew
something was wrong.
They thought it was a virus and took him to an urgent care
facility. What they thought would be a quick trip to the doctor
turned into a night that would change their lives forever.
His mother Elaine Grande says, “I fell to the floor and was in
complete shock. You know we went from a virus to anemia to
leukemia. It was just a whirlwind within a 10 hour span.”
“You know they say you hear cancer and you just die and we
basically died for a little while until today, until we’re sitting
here today,” said his father Vincenzo Grande.
Little Enzo spent the next two weeks at Arnold Palmer Hospital in
He needed multiple blood transfusions just to get his levels up to
a place where he could begin receiving chemotherapy.
Enzo is in the beginning stages of treatment and may need more
blood transfusions as he fights the disease.
His parents admit that donating blood wasn’t at the top of their
list of things to do before their son ended up being a
“You get lost in the world and you’re just-go at your own pace, but
when your life gets halted like this and you need those blood
donations and people that you don’t even know are sitting there for
an hour, getting the blood taken out, you really don’t know how
much you are helping someone,” Elaine said.
Now the Grande family encourages everyone to roll up their sleeves
and give the gift of life because they see firsthand how blood
donors are impacting the life of their child.
Watch Enzo’s story
Surrounded by wires, pumps and machines,
newborn Hudson Turner struggles to survive inside the neonatal
intensive care unit. Doctors diagnosed Hudson with hypoplastic left
heart syndrome three weeks before he was born. His parents
were devastated. They knew he’d have a tough road ahead of him and
when doctors said he’d need a heart transplant it was another blow
to their hearts.
Hudson spent five months waiting on a heart and underwent two open
heart surgeries in the meantime. He needed multiple units of blood
in the process, but when he finally did get his heart transplant he
was too sick to pull through.
Though he ended up passing away, his family is grateful to blood
donors because they allowed Hudson to spend five months with his
His mother Brooke said, “It meant the world. That 5 ½ months is all
we had…we never took him home. He stayed in the hospital. Without
it I never would have known my son so it means a lot that he was
able to live at least 5 ½ months.”
Hudson’s father, Luke, had been a blood donor for years, but his
situation inspired Brooke to also roll up her sleeve and give the
gift of life to other children who may be in the hospital right
She says, “I hope that people will understand that it doesn’t hurt
to give blood. It doesn’t take that much time and that you’re
saving a life and giving someone that short amount of time that
they have with their child.”
A lot has changed since Hudson’s passing. The Turners had another
child, Holden, and they moved to Florida where Luke took a job at
As they maneuver through the wildlife at Gatorland, the Turners
know a member of their family is missing, but they keep his spirit
alive by giving life to others in his honor.
17-year-old Kenny Conidaris grew up along the sands of the
Lani Kai Beach Resort in Fort Myers. He loves the sun and the surf
and can often be seen jet skiing in the emerald green waters of the
Gulf of Mexico.
Kenny cherishes every moment of sunshine because his life used
to be filled with countless doctors visits, lengthy hospital stays
and numerous blood transfusions.
Kenny suffers from aplastic anemia. It’s a rare condition in
which the body doesn’t produce enough red blood cells. He was
diagnosed at the age of 12.
Kenny relied on a horse serum as well as blood and platelets to
When I caught up with Kenny and his family on the beach behind
the resort he told me that he remembers being exhausted and
suffered unexplained bruising before being diagnosed with the
His mother Kathy Conidaris says, ““I was horrified. I
didn’t know if he was going to live or die. I was
scared. I was confused. I was upset. I was
Kenny is currently in remission. However, his only shot at a
cure is a bone marrow transplant, but to this day; doctors have not
been able to find a matching donor.
That’s why his family hosts a blood and bone marrow drive every
year at the Lani Kai Resort.
Kathy says, “It’s Kenny’s way of giving back. He wants to
give back to the community and so does my family because if it
wasn’t for everybody that does donate and everything then we
wouldn’t be here today saying this. Kenny wouldn’t be here in his
great remission that he is. We do want to give back to the
community to help other people and help other people stay alive,
just like the community did for us at one point.”
Thanks to donors in the Fort Myers community Kenny recently
graduated high school and looks forward to attending college and
studying to be an EMT.
Though his life seems right on track, Kenny and his family fear
a relapse may occur and they hope to have a bone marrow match in
their back pocket, just in case he needs a bone marrow transplant
in the future.
The Fifth Annual Kenny Conidaris Blood Drive is scheduled for
July 16, 2011 at the Lani Kai Resort.