Blood drive organized to help children

Woman finds she can't sit by while young leukemia patient needs transfusions.

August 05, 2011|By Maria Hsin,

When 5-year-old Matthew Fernandez’s leukemia diagnosis because public in April, Michele Ramos knew she had to do more than just help the family with groceries.

“You cannot help but look your children in the eyes and wonder if this could have been them,” Ramos said. “We’re very, very lucky to have two healthy children.”

Ramos, a native of Austria who has lived in Burbank for 14 years, recalled the message she received from Matthew’s mom, Ana Fernandez.


“I remember getting this phone call on April 3,” Ramos said. “She left me a message, she was very upset, and I called her back and she told me Matthew was diagnosed with leukemia. I felt so helpless — I wanted to do something.”

Ana Fernandez quit her job as a licensed vocational nurse to provide full-time care for Matthew. Fernandez also has a seven-year-old boy, Andy, who will start second grade at Saint Finbar’s Catholic Church this fall.

The families from the church’s pre-school began dropping off groceries, giving Andy rides home from school and scheduling play dates, Ramos said.

But Ramos wanted to do more after visiting Matthew at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

“I saw the suffering there and figured, ‘I gotta do something’ — not just to help Matthew, but the other children at the hospital,” Ramos said. “I wanted to do a blood drive.”

She contacted Saint Finbar’s parish, and they agreed to let her use the community center as the site of a blood drive on Sunday. After the plans were set, news of the blood drive spread quickly.

It ran in the church bulletin and was mentioned in announcements in Mass, she said.

Ramos also asked Saint Finbar’s principal to email the flier to other schools, and she drove around to other parishes to spread the word.

Spanish-language TV station Univision scheduled a chat with Fernandez and she was interviewed on 101.9 La Nueva FM’s morning show.

An email address and Facebook page were set up. Messages left at the church office are routed to Ramos, who returns the calls.

Children’s Hospital officials will be on site Sunday to run the blood drive, which is expected to attract more than 100 donors.

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