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UB employee on a mission to collect 1,003 blood donations

Gina Bellavia and son Theo

Gina Bellavia and her son, Theo, are grateful that blood transfusions have cured Theo's autoimmune disorder.

By SUE WUETCHER

Published July 18, 2013

“I couldn’t believe that 1,000 people had donated their blood to give my son another chance at life.”
Gina Bellavia, research assistant
School of Nursing

The American Red Cross will hold a special blood drive on July 31 at UB in honor of the son of a UB employee who is on a mission to repay the donations that helped save her son’s life.

The drive in honor of Theo, son of Gina Bellavia, research assistant in the School of Nursing, will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Harriman Hall, South Campus.

“The Red Cross holds regular blood drives at UB, but we wanted to dedicate this one to Theo,” Bellavia says. “Since I have worked in several departments at UB, and earned my PhD at UB as well, it seemed like a good fit to have a UB drive in Theo’s honor.” 

When Theo was in kindergarten, he was diagnosed with idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), an autoimmune disorder in which the white blood cells destroy platelets, which are necessary for normal blood clotting. Theo received two platelet donations and one immunoglobulin transfusion to treat his ITP. Immunoglobulin is a blood product that is made from the plasma from at least 1,000 blood donors.

“When I learned just how many people had to give their plasma to make the immunoglobulin, my fear about Theo receiving another transfusion was completely overtaken by gratitude. I couldn’t believe that 1,000 people had donated their blood to give my son another chance at life,” Bellavia says.

Theo responded well to the immunoglobulin transfusion and after another platelet transfusion, he “sprung back to life, acting like himself again for the first time in seven days,” his mother says.

Theo, now 8, no longer needs transfusions. “We were told that he is cured, and he has shown no signs of any recurrence,” Bellavia says.

She already has collected 506 donations toward her goal of 1,003—the number of donations that supported the transfusions, plus one to pay it forward—and is hoping to collect even more at community blood drives being held throughout the summer, including the one at UB.

UB employees who wish to make a donation are urged to schedule an appointment in advance by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or visiting the Red Cross’ website. Walk-ins are also welcome.

Those who wish to donate but can’t make the drive at UB are encouraged to take part in other blood drives in Theo’s honor:

  • July 24, 1-7 p.m. Lancaster Elks Club, 33 Legion Parkway, Lancaster
  • July 29, noon to 6 p.m., Hearthstone Manor, 333 Dick Road, Depew
  • Aug. 6, 2-7 p.m., Knights of Columbus, 755 Erie Ave., North Tonawanda
  • Aug. 8, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Clarion Hotel, 8250 Park Road, Batavia
  • Aug. 15, 1-6 p.m., American Legion, 3470 N. Buffalo Road, Orchard Park
  • Aug. 15, 2-6:30 p.m., Wesleyan Church of Hamburg, 4999 McKinley Parkway, Hamburg