Donated blood kept premature baby alive

Last updated 05:00 10/06/2014
Blood donation Addison
LIFE SAVER: Mum Taryn Ibell with Addison, now 2. Her daughter would not have survived with a blood transfusion.
Blood donation Addison
TINY SPARK: Addison Ibell soon after she was born three months premature and weighing less than a kilogram.

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When Addison Ibell was born she weighed less than block of cheese and did not have enough blood to keep her alive.

Born three months prematurely, the Wellington baby weighed just 865 grams and was barely the length of a ruler.

"Her head was the size of a 50-cent piece in my palm," mother Taryn Ibell said.

Addison spent her first three months in Wellington Hospital with tubes feeding her drugs, food, air - and three lots of a stranger's blood. "She was not producing her own blood properly yet. I think if she hadn't had it, she wouldn't be here."

Every week about five children at Wellington Hospital are kept alive using donated blood. The New Zealand Blood Service said that, nationwide, newborns and their mothers used about 12,000 units of blood a year, and more donors were needed.

Nearly three years after she was born, Addison shows few outward signs of those months on life support. But her mother said she was small for her age, weighing about as much as a typical child at their first birthday.

She also suffered from chronic lung disease, after her lungs were prised open for ventilation access soon after she was born. Until about six months ago, she could only be tube-fed.

But Ibell said her daughter made up for her size and tough start with a fiery, inquisitive nature. "She is certainly a 2-year-old with attitude."

Blood Services central area manager Alastair Neill said the service was using World Blood Donor Day on Saturday to push for more donors to help people such as Addison.

However, this year it was trying to avoid a sudden deluge at the door and was asking for a pledge to give blood in the future, and by appointment.

With blood lasting only 35 days before it needs to be thrown out, the service needed to carefully manage the supply from a dwindling number of donors, and keep less stock on hand.

"It's a bit like fresh vegetables. You need them in the supermarket, but you also need to manage the expiry date."

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