Recent Sealy High School graduate Dakota Johnson was diagnosed with aplastic anemia in February and now receives weekly blood transfusions.
The diagnosis changed his life. Dakota, 17, finished high school in May, a year early, through a program that allowed him to complete his coursework from home. He is unable to go out in public without taking certain precautions to keep him from becoming sick, and that means he can’t go to places like movie theaters, restaurants or to the park on busy days. He needs a mask to visit with his friends.
Still, Amy Johnson, Dakota’s mother, said he continues to wake up grateful for each day.
Members of the Sealy community are partnering with Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center to host two blood drives this month in Dakota’s honor. The first drive was held July 14 at Liedertafel Firemans Hall, 116 Lux Road, in Sealy. A representative of Be the Match also will attend the drive to register potential bone marrow donors. To schedule an appointment, visit giveblood.org, log in to Digital Donor and enter sponsor code V862 or contact Kristie Sell at (832) 703-9579.
A second blood drive is scheduled with Austin County EMS on Tuesday, July 24, from 3 to 7:30 p.m., at the Hill Community Center community room, 1000 Main St., in Sealy. To schedule an appointment, visit giveblood.org, log in to Digital Donor and enter sponsor code KM24 or contact Linda Toman at (832) 595-4859.
“Each day, there is more of a need for blood products than there is a supply,” Amy Johnson said. “If those products were to run out, someone could lose a loved one due to that shortage.”
Aplastic anemia is a rare form of bone marrow failure and blood disease. Dakota first was diagnosed with the flu in January when he went to the doctor with a fever. A week later, he called his mom from school, saying he felt faint.
When Amy Johnson picked him up, Dakota was drenched in sweat. She thought he was still fighting the flu, but later that night, his left arm was covered in what looked like a red rash. In the following days before he was diagnosed, Dakota was taken to the emergency room in Sealy, and then to Texas Children’s Hospital with an extremely low platelet count.
“Blood transfusions have literally saved Dakota’s life. If it was not for the transfusions that he receives weekly, my son would not be here,” Amy Johnson said, adding that Dakota still receives two units of platelets every week and one unit of red blood cells every two weeks.
Commit for Life is a partnership between the community and The Blood Center focused on saving lives today and in the future.
“As a part of this partnership, we have the opportunity to meet patients like Dakota and offer a meaningful way for their friends and families to express support in their time of need by donating blood and hosting blood drives,” said Mike Norman, Commit for Life program supervisor. “Through meeting and working with folks who have loved ones in the hospital, we can’t help but think of them as family. A constant refrain we are asked to share is how appreciative they all are for your selfless gift of life.”
For more information on hosting a blood drive in honor of a loved one, email RTN@giveblood.org or call (713) 791-6670. Visit giveblood.org for more information about Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center.
The Blood Center is the primary supplier of blood components to more than 170 hospitals and health care facilities in a 26-county Texas Gulf Coast region. For more information or to help save lives, visit giveblood.org.