Alexandra Karritti was nominated by BloodSource in Elk Grove to be Dr. Pan's Senate District 6 Unsung Hero for her unwavering commitment to encourage others to share the gift of life. June is an important month for blood donation, there will be a blood drive at the Wackford Aquatic Center at 9014 Bruceville Road in Elk Grove on June 8th from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Those who donate will receive a CA State Fair Ticket and an SF Giants T-shirt.
Tell us a little about yourself and your family.
I'm married to Mike Karritti and in 2011 we had a baby boy who we named Bobby. When Bobby was about three months old, the roller-coaster began. We affectionately called him our 'blueberry' baby not knowing his color came from a severe deficit in platelets which control clotting. It took a long time to receive a diagnosis of a very rare disease called Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome. Bobby needed hundreds of blood components like red cells, platelets, plasma and plasma-based medicine. When he turned two years old, he received a bone marrow transplant. For four years, he received a plasma-based medicine. He never would have made it this far - and be the healthy, amazing young boy he is - without the availability of blood. We are forever grateful to the community of lifesavers who donate blood on behalf of people like Bobby.
How are you making a difference in your community?
One person alone can't donate all the blood my son needed to survive so I encourage blood donation whenever I can and speak to various groups. I have spoken to transfusion medicine specialists, met donors at BloodSource Elk Grove, interacted with donors at blood drives, made a video educating people about the need for blood and present to those who need to hear how their donations help people like my son. Sometimes, people just need to meet a blood recipient to understand how important their donations are. Here I am!
Why is volunteering important to you?
We are not the only family that has endured such difficult circumstances. I was at my son's side constantly doing whatever I could to help him survive but I could never give him the hundreds of blood components - or the bone marrow transplant - he needed to live. Whatever I can do to help another family or another community to get through the toughest circumstances they will ever face, I'm there!
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Most of all, I'm proud to be Bobby's mom and to have fought so hard for his life.
I have volunteered to share Bobby's story and through that hundreds of people have committed to donating blood regularly or registered as potential marrow donors. Every time someone donates blood, that action has a ripple effect on families, friends, co-workers and communities. I am not a public speaker but have tackled that so as to give back and pay it forward through volunteering to share our experience.
It is not easy to relive the hardest moments of Bobby's life: the mornings I checked his pulse to make sure he was still alive; the daily trips to the hospital to find that once again his platelets were almost non-existent; the times he hovered so close to death we could feel its breath upon him; the time when a marrow donor changed her mind; the absolute dependence on the kindness of strangers to donate blood so he could live and more. Yet when I summon the courage to speak about those hard times, I know I have touched people and who knows how many people they in turn will encourage?
Volunteering allows me to share hope with others who are going through hard medical situations that may seem hopeless. It's a priceless opportunity to volunteer this part of myself in order to help others.
What have you struggled most with in your life?
I've struggled most with accepting that other people would be the ones to save Bobby. I couldn't control that and that's hard when facing a situation where you would change places in an instant but you can't. For years I couldn't 'fix' this but I can control how I respond and volunteering is what I do.
If there was one problem in our community that you wish you could fix, what would it be?
I wish more people would donate blood. I know that less than ten percent of people donate blood and I think we can do better. BloodSource has a community blood drive on June 8 at the Wackford Aquatic Center and I will be there donating and thanking blood donors. I encourage you to join us!
How do you decompress?
I love yoga!
How might you encourage others to volunteer?
I would encourage others to find the experiences in their lives that could potentially help others and to act on that knowledge.