Today, we share with you the words of another guest blogger, Julie Rottmayer, who was our first contact at BloodSource. Julie introduced us to the world of blood donation, a world of caring, compassionate people who rooted for our son through his treatment and honored him after his passing. Julie shares with us how Caemon’s legacy is at work in blood banking and bone marrow recruitment, and she brings in how he has impacted her personally as well. This is a special post from a person we care for greatly. She and other members at BloodSource helped us find purpose in the early days after Caemon’s passing, and in doing so, contributed so much to our healing.
It is such an honor to be asked to contribute to Thirty Days of Caemon. Like others who have written, I too have been profoundly moved by a little boy I’ve never actually met.
I was first introduced to Caemon’s story during my work in donor recruitment at a blood bank here in
Northern California. During this period I witnessed the impact Caemon’s illness and legacy had on blood donation, platelet donation, and registration for Be the Match (the national marrow registration database). I’ve had the privilege to partner with Jodi and Timaree on several blood and marrow drives in Caemon’s honor held on the Sonoma State University Campus. Jodi’s and Timaree’s students, SSU sorority sisters, SSU fraternity brothers, colleagues and friends showed up en mass to donate blood and sign up for the national marrow registry. They stood ready to help recruit and inspire others to do the same. They donned the Drippy Mascot outfit and walked campus. I saw many of them walking on Caemon’s Light the Night team. Because of Caemon, countless lives continue to be saved through blood and platelet donations made in his honor. And in the years to come, students that registered with Be the Match will be called to donate bone marrow for life saving transfusions.
Those who work in blood banking love sharing stories of those who received donations and survived. Who doesn’t love a happy ending? But we also are very quick to point out that stories like Caemon’s are equally as important. They hold a sacred place with all of us. If Caemon had not had access to a safe and readily-available blood supply, his moms would have never had a chance to even hope for a cure for their son. I know first-hand that to a cancer patient and his or her family, hope is everything. It keeps you going through the darkest hours. Hope for a cure. Hope for more time. Hope for one last good memory. One last “I love you”. Caemon, and many patients like him, would never have had the chance to make it to the transplant unit—his one chance of becoming cancer-free—if it were not for the generosity of blood donors. As Caemon’s doctors continue to work tirelessly to unravel the mystery of JMML, blood donation and platelet donation will provide lifesaving transfusions to those children holding out hope that they will one day be cured of this horrid disease. Blood donation provides that hope. Knowing there is a match for your child on the national marrow registry—or perhaps several good matches—provides that hope.
One of my greatest honors I had during my time at the blood bank was to meet and develop a relationship with Timaree and Jodi. I treasure them both. His moms have shown immeasurable courage with their repeated willingness to carry Caemon’s legacy forward whenever asked to do so. They share his story and speak to current and potential blood donors about the necessity of blood and plasma donation. They’ve shared Caemon’s story with high school students, college students, and donors throughout Northern California. They inspire people to continue to donate and join the marrow registry. To watch them in action as they recruit is awe-inspiring. Just try to tell Jodi that you don’t want to donate blood because you’re scared of needles! Or you’re concerned that donating marrow would be a little uncomfortable! I dare you.
Personally, Caemon’s story has really touched me in many ways. When I left blood banking, I definitely carried him with me. As a parent, I have learned to be grateful for my children’s health, even in the most frustrating moments. To enjoy every moment. To leave piles of laundry unfolded on the floor and just play. As a worker, I kept Caemon’s picture on my desk and looked at it every day—those beautiful ocean blue eyes reminded me daily why I was there. Personally, Caemon’s ability to face and explore his fears by befriending them has taught me to try to do the same in many aspects of my life. I’ve thought a lot of why Caemon’s story touched me so profoundly—why, like so many others who have never met him– I seem to keep his legacy so close in my own thoughts. People he came into contact with during his short life were touched so deeply by him. How do those of us who never even met him know the essence of this exquisite child’s character? His soul? His spirit? Timaree and Jodi are so eloquently and fearlessly able to share their son with us that his legacy lives on so powerfully through their words and actions. They make us all want to be better people. To take action. To contribute something—a children’s book, a pint of blood, a two mile Light the Night walk. Fueled by the love for their child, they have shown up and shared his story. There has to be times when this is devastatingly hard. But they do it anyway. As his legacy work continues, and lives are changed—and saved—we should be profoundly grateful for them for being such brave and devoted guardians of their beautiful boy’s legacy.