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Blood donors' magic gift helped Ava

Friday 20 March 2020 in Celebrations

Teams donating blood and blood products were given awards at the Red Cross Lifeblood Presentation in Parramatta recently, but the star of the night was 6-year-old Ava. She showed what the donations really meant because transfusions were an important part of her treatment for cancer and helped save her life. Her mother, Kathy Garland, thanked the audience during her speech for their vital donations and said, “You are why my daughter is here today.” 

Ava was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia in 2016 when she was three years old and, during her treatment, had about 20 blood and blood product transfusions. For almost nine months she and Kathy lived at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, which was a big upheaval as home was over five hours away, and Ava was the youngest in a family with five girls. Kathy remembers a type of blood product transfusion that was special to Ava and made her smile.

“She particularly loved getting albumin - it sometimes had a green tinge and she thought it was her Tinker Bell fairy juice.”

Often people wonder what they can do to support a family whose child is going through cancer treatment. “I think the really big thing is, when your child is diagnosed, you are overwhelmed by people asking how they can help. Donating blood is exactly how they can help,” said Kathy.

Ava is now 6, and although she is well again, Kathy is a passionate advocate for blood donation and helps to organise the Westmead Cancer Centre for Children Supporters who donate as a Lifeblood team. Most children receiving cancer treatment need many transfusions of blood and blood products, as do other patients in hospitals to save their life or ensure quality of life, and supply sometimes has difficulty keeping up with demand.

To help with supply and demand Lifeblood teams are encouraged to focus their giving during specific months to ensure there are donations all year round, although participants are welcome to give at other times too. Teams are formed from various parts of the community and include representatives from the army, universities, nursing, policing, football teams, workplaces, and families and friends.

The Oncology Parents Advisory Council (OPAC) at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead also support the Westmead Cancer Centre for Children Supporters Lifeblood team.

Laurence Hibbert, from OPAC, said, “The Cancer Centre has a stalwart group of donors and what we do as a family group is amazing.”

Demand for blood is increasing though and donors are always needed. The rewards for rolling up a sleeve and taking the time to donate are exponential and by donating blood and blood products, donors are part of a magical life-giving process. After all, it was her Tinker Bell fairy juice that helped save Ava’s life.


Find out more about the Westmead Cancer Centre for Children Supporters and see the progress of members who donated at the Parramatta Donor Centre.

Ready to help save lives? Visit the Red Cross website and fill in the online form.

Did you know plasma and other blood products are important too? Find out more.

Photo main (L-R): Laurence Hibbert, Ava and Kathy Garland

Photo bottom left: Presentation

Photo middle (L-R): City of Parramatta Lord Mayor Bob Dwyer, Ava and Kathy Garland

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