July 25, 2012 - After nearly 1,000 blood donors saved her son's life, local resident Joy Jewell is looking to repay the debt by hsoting a Red Cross blood drive on July 30.
Austin Jewell was saved by more than a 1,000 blood donors. Now his family wants to repay the debt. Photo submitted. (click for larger version)
The drive is between 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the parking lot of Guardian Angel Cemetery in Rochester where Jewell works.
"It's going to take a lot of drives and a lot of years, this being the first drive I'd like it to be as successful as we can," she said. "We hope to have many more drives over many more years."
Earlier this year, Jewell's son Austin, who was 12 years-old at the time became sick in March. Being a healthy boy with no prior major health issues, Joy didn't think much of it.
"I thought oh well he has a virus and a fever," she said. "I didn't think it was that big of a deal."
When she took Austin to the doctor, they didn't seem to find anything major wrong with him, but took some blood cultures to have them tested and prescribed some antibiotics to help his fever. The next day Austin's fever was higher and he was feeling more physically sick. Joy called the doctor to see if they had results in, but was told the blood cultures wouldn't be back until another three to five days.
"One of things they were testing Austin for was a form of meningitis which is very life threatening," noted Joy.
When she discovered Austin's hands, feet, and tongue were turning really red, she panicked thinking it could be life threatening. The doctor instructed Austin to keep taking his antibiotics and would be fine. Joy's motherly instincts took over and took him to the Emergency Room.
"I was not going to listen to the doctor and wait three to five days for test results" she said. "Luckily there at the ER, was a young nurse who happened to be taking some classes to further her education. One of the classes happened to be related to this disease called Kawasaki. She recognized the symptoms."
Austin was transported to Royal Oak Beaumont Children's Hospital. Joy said Austin's liver had inflammation, so it took two more days of testing, eliminating everything it might be until diagnosing him with the Kawasaki disease. "They started the treatment on Day 5 of onset of this illness. His entire body was bright red," she said. "It looked like he had most hideous sunburn you could imagine."
Joy said the disease inflames all the blood vessels within the body, which is why the body turns all red, especially in the feet, hands and mouth because that's where the most vessels are.
The disease is fairly new disease, she noted. It was discovered in the late 1960's in Japan. Research and studies are being done on it, but still very little is known about it, according to Joy.
"It's believed to be an autoimmune disease, but nobody's been able to establish where it comes from, what triggers it, how it presents itself," she said. "There are theories, but nothings confirmed. Normally it affects boys of Asian decent under the age of 5. When we were in the hospital there were two other small children with it."
One of the most threatening things about the disease Joy added was if it wasn't treated within the first 10 days it could cause damage to the heart. Those who got the disease and were not treated early, died of heart disease.
Austin spent a week in the hospital, but after receiving numerous pints of plasma from the blood donors, he was able to go home.
"At this point we're thrilled he was treated with no damage to the heart and has the chance to lead a perfectly normal life," she said. "It's also inspired us to give back. At a minimum pay back what we've used (in blood)."
Guardian Angel Cemetery is located at 4701 Rochester Road in Rochester Hills.
Through this experience Joy learned that there are good doctors, as well as not so good doctors and it pays to get a doctor who will take the extra time to make the proper diagnosis.
"From everything I've learned about this disease often times it takes the persistent of the parent to take the child to four or five different doctors before it's diagnosed," she said. "Sometimes it stills go undiagnosed and then it's too late."
Joy considers her and her family lucky that things were spotted and her son was in the right hands and got the right treatment.
"Everything we received from that hospital was outstanding," added Joy. "They were amazing up there, all because we bumped into the right person."
To sign up or make an appointment to donate visit Redcrossblood.org Sponser code guardianangel or call Joy at 248-601-4188.
Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.