NEWCASTLE: It was during bath time in late April that Leigh Tull noticed something unusual about her eldest daughter Amelia.
‘‘Next to her sister, her skin looked a little yellow,’’ Mrs Tull, of Karuah, said.
‘‘I asked [husband] Aaron to take her to the doctor the next day because he was on holidays.
‘‘The doctor ordered a blood test and then we went camping for a couple of days.’’
When they returned, the family received the phone call that would upturn their lives.
‘‘We were told it was likely Amelia had leukaemia and to take her straight to John Hunter Hospital,’’ said Mrs Tull.
Amelia, 8, was given a transfusion that night because her blood cell and platelet levels were dramatically low. She was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, a rare form of cancer that mostly affects children.
Doctors told the Tulls that without treatment Amelia would have died within three months.
‘‘I cried for weeks – never in front of her – but I also knew that with proper care she’d be OK,’’ Mrs Tull said.
Amelia’s treatment has involved weekly chemotherapy at John Hunter Children’s Hospital, regular lumbar punctures and more than 20 transfusions using donated blood.
She has missed six months of school and lost her hair, which is now falling out for a second time.
Mrs Tull is very clear about the importance of blood donation.
‘‘She wouldn’t be here,’’ she said. ‘‘I can never personally thank the people who have saved her life, but I want all donors to know that they make a difference.’’
The Newcastle Herald has thrown its support behind the Red Cross’s appeal for 500 donors in the Hunter during the Christmas period.
While people head off to enjoy the holidays, cancer patients such as Amelia require regular transfusions and much-needed platelets.
Platelets are essential for cancer patients but are the shortest-lived blood product with a shelf life of only five days.
‘‘This means anything collected on the Friday before Christmas will either expire or be depleted by Boxing Day,’’ said Red Cross spokeswoman Jemma Falkenmire.
‘‘With two public holidays and a weekend, it is vital that Hunter donors make an appointment to give blood before Christmas Eve and the days immediately after Boxing Day.
‘‘Every donation helps to save as many as three lives.’’
Herald cartoonist Peter Lewis lined up to give blood yesterday – and lived to tell the tale ...
I NEARLY failed the physical.
After volunteering with other Newcastle Herald staff to give blood and filling out several pages of forms, the nurse took my blood pressure – and it wasn’t good news.
Probably because of the exhausting 200-metre walk from the Herald.
However the rest of the process proved to be easy.
I’ve drawn blood plenty of times before with a pen and paper but this was the first time it was for real.
Thankfully the procedure was carefully explained, the needle didn’t hurt, and I didn’t faint at the sight of my vital bodily essence being siphoned off then rocked like a baby in a cradle.
There was even time to sketch out the concept for today’s cartoon while waiting in the chair.
The staff were supportive and friendly, and there was plenty of free food once the procedure was over.
The milkshake and sausage roll tasted good but probably hasn’t helped lower my blood pressure for the next time I become a donor.