Health + Behavior

Brave toddler meets 24 strangers who saved her life

Blood and platelet donations sustained 2-year-old as she fought two rare cancers at UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital

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Skye and donors
Reed Hutchinson/UCLA Health

Skye Savren-McCormick and her parents, Todd and Talia, meet 24 of people whose donated blood and platelets saved her life during treatment for cancer.

It took a team of UCLA medical professionals and the generosity of 71 strangers to save 2-year-old Skye Savren-McCormick’s life.

The toddler from Ventura, California, required frequent blood and platelet transfusions, often on a daily basis, while undergoing three grueling bone-marrow transplants, surgery to remove her swollen spleen and seven rounds of chemotherapy for leukemia and lymphoma. She received 77 units of blood and platelets during a 10-month stay at UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital

Recently Skye’s family got to meet and thank two dozen of the 71 strangers whose blood and platelet donations sustained their toddler’s life during her fight with two rare types of cancer. The introduction took place at a special luncheon organized by the UCLA Blood and Platelet Center.

Doctors initially diagnosed Skye with juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia, which strikes only one in 1 million children. She later developed lymphoma in her eyelid after her second transplant.

Cancer prevented Skye’s body from producing enough blood cells and platelets to transport oxygen to her organs, fight infection and foster healing. Her parents, Kevin and Talia Savren-McCormick, thanked the rapt audience and referred to their donations as “life in a bag.”

“Each time Skye received a transfusion, it was like life had been breathed back into her,” Talia Savren-McCormick said. “You provided Skye with a powerful bridge toward health until she was strong enough to undergo treatment.”

Ranging in age from 17 to 71, Skye’s donors hailed from throughout California and spanned the spectrum in terms of ethnicity, occupation and gender. Many drive long distances to donate and have given blood and platelets hundreds of times.

UCLA Health
 

Due to Skye’s frail health, doctors gave her only a 10 percent chance of survival. But she beat the odds, leading her parents and nurses to nickname her “Warrior Skye.”

“Skye is one of our baby miracles at UCLA,” said Dr. Satiro De Oliveira, an assistant professor of pediatric hematology-oncology. “Today is a beautiful celebration of Skye’s health and your dedication.

“As a physician, I never need to worry about whether I’ll have enough blood and platelets for my patients,” he added. “Your donations are the rock of our medical care.”

Due to patient privacy laws, most blood donors never meet the people they help.

“Come on, it’s indescribable,” blood donor Howard Turner said. “It’s awesome.”

According to Dr. Dawn Ward, medical director of the UCLA Blood and Platelet Center, patients like Skye who have cancer or require bone marrow transplants use about 40 percent of all the platelets and 20 percent of all the blood transfused by hospitals.

“You are a providing an incredible lifesaving resource to vulnerable patients who rely on your donations for their survival,” Ward said.

Discharged from the hospital in May, Skye has gained weight and is in remission from her cancers. Her parents are looking forward to celebrating her third birthday in March. 

At the end of the event, Skye’s mother stood at the podium, fighting tears as she attempted to thank the people whose blood now flows through her daughter’s heart.

“When you donate, think of Skye and how you helped save her life,” Talia Savren-McCormick said. “How you pumped life into her body. And how you pumped hope into our family.”

Considering becoming a donor? You must be 17 or older, weigh at least 110 pounds, be in good health, not take aspirin or anti-inflammatory drugs within 48 hours of donation, and be willing to allow one hour for donating blood or two hours for donating platelets. To schedule a donation, email gotblood@ucla.edu or call 310-825-0888, ext. 2.   

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