JÉRÉMY PLOURDE THE STORY OF A CHAMPION!
|Héma-Québec provides for the needs of recipients, no matter who they are. Sometimes it implies an emergency delivery of huge quantities of packed red blood cells to a patient in an operating room; in other cases, a specialized product must be delivered over a long period of time. Jérémy’s story illustrates the second scenario. His is a life lesson about courage. It’s the story of a champion!|
It’s not even seven o’clock, but he can’t wait any longer. At age six, in fact, time always seems too long… “So, did they win?” he eagerly asks his parents who are still half asleep. “And Kovalev, did he score?” From his room, his older brother Samuel answers him with loud enthusiasm, “Yes, he scored two goals, and one of them was the winning goal!”
Jérémy Plourde is still too young to watch a game of the Canadien up to the end. Especially during the playoffs, when games end in overtime. Yet, his young age doesn’t prevent him from being one of the biggest fans of the Russian star player. And just like his hero, he intends to live fully. His head overflows with projects and he wants to accomplish them now.
Like many boys, Jérémy loves hockey. Dynamic and full of energy, he plays his favourite sport for a hockey team called the Gouverneurs of Ste-Foy-Sillery. His equipment however, is off-limits for everyone; and it would be inconceivable for him to borrow a friend’s equipment.
Nothing bad is intended by this of course, it’s actually quite the opposite. Jérémy is very sensitive to infections. Every day, he faces having to manage a very rare illness: a humoral complex immune deficiency. In the changing room, everyone understands the importance of following the hygiene guidelines so that their friend Jérémy can play with them normally. By sticking to the game plan shown to them, each of these young team players will succeed in keeping at check length the multiple infectious agents.
Jérémy’s body does not produce immunoglobulin G, or IgG, a substance also known as antibodies, normally present in the bloodstream of all humans and whose function is to fight off microbes; Jérémy has no antibodies to fight them. This is a rare condition, and it took specialists two and a half years to find the right diagnosis. After his birth, Jérémy suffered from asthma, produced large quantities of mucus and repeatedly suffered from infections. Needless to say, he and his parents spent many days in the emergency wards or in medical clinics, each time anxious to find out what was wrong.
A specialist finally got wind of the situation and asked them to perform further tests. Once the diagnosis was found, a course of action became clear: the young patient would need to have frequent transfusions. To keep his immune system functioning, he would in fact need to receive them his entire life. For a long time, Jérémy received immunoglobulins (IgG) every two weeks intravenously. He was punctured so many times that his veins were no longer able to absorb the quantities of liquid. When a permanent catheter was implanted under his clavicle, Jérémy exclaimed, “Wow! It’s a magic box.” From that day on, the needles no longer hurt him.
In order to maximize the response to an uncountable number of attacks from microbes and antigens to which a person is exposed, the immunoglobulins transfused must be taken from a large sample of 5 to 10,000 donors. Receiving this many antibodies even drop by drop over a four-hour period, occasionally produces certain side-effects (vomiting, migraine, etc.). To make the treatment more tolerable for the young boy, it is now administered every three weeks. Thus, Jérémy receives more immunoglobulins, but less frequently.
Jérémy never complains. He likes to remind his loved-ones that he is not sick, and that it is only his body that is. In fact, his routine hospital visits are part of his life. They take place on Fridays, from quarter to eight to four thirty. Jérémy likes to prepare his bag and pack his toys. Once in the hospital room, he can finally play with a new toy his parents have bought him. “To help him look forward to his next appointment,” his mother confides, “we let him choose a new toy as soon as we leave the hospital.” Jérémy therefore knows in advance what his next gift will be, but he isn’t allowed to touch it before his next transfusion.
The side-effects he goes through after his treatment are nothing compared to the advantages. After each hospital visit, he is transformed. The transformation is never exactly the same however. “Sometimes Jérémy becomes impatient,” says his mother. “We tell him he received blood from the Lion King! That explains why he feels like roaring! Other times he climbs on everything and we explain that he received blood from Spiderman!” For the parents, it’s important to explain to their son what he is going through using language he can understand. These explanations reassure him, and allow him to make sense of what he is feeling.
This year, Héma-Québec invited Jérémy’s entire family to a recognition evening that was held in Québec City. He was impressed to be in a grand hotel, accompanied by his mother, his father Robert Plourde and his twin brother and sister, Audrey-Anne and Samuel. But he was mostly surprised to see gathered in the same place so many… superheroes! During the course of the evening he came to understand that the people that were present donated blood on a regular basis without being forced to. He who knew only too well the discomfort of repeated punctures, found it difficult to understand their motivation. “Mommy, do the needles hurt them too?” he asked incredulously. “If that’s true, they are all Batmans and Spidermans!” Donors, who are seemingly ordinary people, outdo themselves, change every time they give the gift of life.
Even if Jérémy shows tremendous courage and determination, day-to-day life is no easy feat for the Plourde family. “All this disrupts a life,” admits Marie-Claude, who was forced to leave her job. “We live on my husband’s salary, and I, being a nurse, stay available for Jérémy.” He blends in well in school, liked by the other children and school staff. However, when other students are sick, he must be removed from the school for a few days. The slightest microbe that would normally be harmless could lead to a serious infection for him. “And we also have our other children!” says Marie-Claude. Audrey-Anne and Samuel, 13 years old, adore their little brother. They accompany him to the hospital when they have a day off. However, they can be a little overprotective at times. Their parents insist that they maintain a normal relationship with their brother and that Jérémy be neither too protected nor spoiled. With two adolescents, a young energetic boy and plenty of medical appointments, the concept of organization takes on its full meaning!
His whole life, little Jérémy will need to receive blood products on a regular basis. He receives and will continue to receive the services of Héma-Québec. And yet, nothing brings him down, nothing diminishes his life force. Like Kovalev, Jérémy is a champion.
IN FOCUS STORY
His whole life, little Jérémy will need to receive blood products on a regular basis. He receives and will continue to receive the services of Héma-Québec. And yet, nothing brings him down, nothing diminishes his life force.
The only thing needed for Jonas Germana to make his first blood donation, was for a blood drive to be held at his workplace. The very day on which the blood drive was planned, a work colleague involved in organizing the event asked him if he would like to participate and thus contribute to saving lives. That was May 31, 2006.
For several years now, Michel Thérien has been getting attention due to his impressive record as a blood products donor. Already, in 2002, Reader’s Digest Select Editions devoted an article to him. The magazine met him when he was at his 650th donation, a milestone which granted him the title of Héma-Québec’s greatest donor. His performance was later covered by the Soleil newspaper, as well as on the waves of Radio-Canada, during the edition of World Blood Donor Day. Michel Thérien has now passed the milestone of 925 donations.
One can never put too much emphasis on how essential the efforts of volunteers are to fulfilling Héma-Québec’s mission. It is thanks to their dedication and great capacity for sharing if more than 2,000 blood drives are organized each year throughout the province. It is also thanks to their actions that Héma-Québec is able to meet the needs of hospital centres for blood products and thus, improve the quality of life of so many patients.
Héma-Québec can count on the active support of the Association of Blood Donation Volunteers (ABDV), which, since its inception in 1998, consists of an association representing blood donors and volunteers throughout Québec with 12 chapters across regional Québec. Hélène Darby has been president of the association since 2005 and is also a member of Héma-Québec’s Board of Directors.
|Dr Vincent Laroche|
Making the connection between blood product donors and recipients, there is obviously Héma-Québec, but also, hospital centres and their blood bank. What significance does a blood donation have for a hematologist, who is also a blood bank director? “A blood donation is a treasure. When we look around, we realize how fortunate we are, here, in Québec. We rarely need to postpone or cancel treatments due to a shortage of blood products. In the United States, for example, in many places, scheduled surgeries are delayed because there is a scarcity of blood products. One of the reasons behind our situation is without a doubt the generosity of donors here,” explains Dr. Vincent Laroche.