Hundreds attend blood drive for 5-year-old leukemia patient

Hundreds of people attended a blood drive on Sunday for Matthew Fernandez, a 5-year-old leukemia patient and preschooler at Saint Finbar’s Catholic Church.

Michelle Ramos of Burbank — whose son attends school with Matthew — helped his mother Ana Fernandez enlist people to donate blood for Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, where he is a patient.

The event was widely publicized on local media, and on Sunday, Eddie “Piolín” Sotelo of 101.9 La Nueva FM showed up. But with a sore throat and fever, Piolín was unable to give blood.

“Sometimes you wake up and ask God to guide you, and you just have to look around or read a newspaper, magazine or watch TV and you see so many people who need it, then you could support in different ways by praying or donating blood,” he said. “Somebody drove two 1/2 hours to come here — those are angels.”

Some people didn’t even know of Matthew’s story, others heard of the blood drive through word of mouth.

“Someone sent me an email,” said Silvia Villalous, who attends mass at Saint Finbar. “I think it’s very important for people. It’s a part of our conscience, to help another.”

Elisha Ty, a 20-year-old student at UC Riverside who attended Saint Finbar, heard through family members.

“I heard that there was a little boy who had leukemia,” she said. “Knowing that there’s a community here that can do this for this little boy — it’s just really cool.

“We rely very heavily on volunteer donors like today,” said Charif El Masri, a clinical lab scientist at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, which staffed the donor stations. “People don’t realize that blood is like a medication the patients receive as part of the treatment. But blood is the only medication that money cannot buy.”

Without enough blood, the hospital postpones surgeries and transfusions. Fernandez said during one visit to the hospital Matthew waited hours to receive a transfusion because of dwindling blood supplies.

“I’m doing it for Matthew and I’m doing it for the others. The positive thing about this is the energy to be here and to let everybody know — we gotta do something,” she said. “You’re actually giving somebody the opportunity to live.”

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