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Grover, North Carolina

When doctors diagnosed Tristan with leukemia, the 2-year-old had lost more than 30 percent of his body weight, dropping from 30 pounds to a rib-baring 19. The normally tan child was so pale he looked almost green, and he had lost the ability to walk.

The night he was diagnosed, his blood counts were so low doctors couldn’t even begin treatment. Tristan’s mom, Jordan, said his blood was so thin, his heart was basically pumping water through his veins. Doctors worried giving him a blood transfusion at regular speed could cause his tiny heart to fail.


Slowly, over the course of 16 hours, Tristan received four units of blood. He spent 12 more hours receiving three units of platelets before he could even be moved to the Oncology floor from ICU.

The doctors and nurses told Tristan’s parents they were lucky.

“They said if we had waited one more day, he would have gone to sleep and he wouldn’t have woken up,” Jordan said.

Results from Tristan’s first tests showed that cancer had taken over 80% of his blood and 95% of his bone marrow. Months of chemotherapy took a toll on his body. He was admitted to the hospital numerous times to receive blood or platelets to replenish what was destroyed by his treatment.

“He has gotten so many blood products, I can’t keep track of them,” Jordan said. “I can’t count on both my hands – and my feet – how many times he’s gotten blood or platelets.”

Tristan is strong. He endured the chemotherapy, medicines to treat side effects, and physical therapy to relearn how to walk. Not long after the family moved to Grover last fall and Tristan began receiving treatment at Atrium Health's Levine Children’s, he was declared in remission.

Though things are progressing well, Tristan’s fight isn’t over just yet. Now 4 years old, his mom administers chemo every day as they navigate the maintenance period of his disease. He still has drawers full of medications he has to take. And something as simple as a nosebleed can result in yet another blood transfusion.

“People don’t realize that when you get sick, there are a lot of things you have to get blood for,” Jordan said. “They don’t realize how important it is to have people who do give blood.”

That realization led Jordan to become a blood donor herself. Tristan’s grandmother and aunt are regular platelet donors as well.

“I started donating because the blood that he got, it saved his life,” Jordan said. “Had Tristan not gotten that blood when he was in ICU, he would have died. I’m just grateful that there are people who donate, because it does save people. It saved Tristan.”

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