Two years ago, Sassy Belunza’s biggest concern was how to persuade her kids to eat more vegetables. But on July 28, 2015, she received life-altering news about her three-year old son that changed everything.
After four weeks of unexplained fevers and a severe loss of appetite, doctors sent Santino from the Pediatric Urgent Care Center to Cook Children’s Medical Center for more extensive testing. Several excruciating hours later, the Belunzas received devastating news. Santino was diagnosed with stage IV neuroblastoma, an aggressive form of childhood cancer that forms in certain types of nerve tissue.
“Immediately after being told it was cancer, he was admitted to the hospital. Everything moved so fast; we had no time to waste,” Sassy said.
Days later, Santino underwent bone marrow and tumor biopsies followed by a surgical port placement. The following day, he began chemotherapy andcontinues to fight.
“Tino has had to endure a lot of treatments because the disease has been so stubborn,” Sassy explained.
Because of chemotherapy’s severe side effects, Santino requires regular blood and platelet transfusions and, according to his mother, has received more than 53 transfusions since his diagnosis.
Santino is dependent on blood transfusions to survive; therefore, his family sees the importance of blood donations first hand. Sassy encourages anyone and everyone to take the time to give blood in order to help patients like her son.
“I would like to say that if your healthy body is able to, please consider taking a short amount of time to go out and donate blood, platelets or plasma. When you do, you become a hero,” Sassy said.
While the journey has been unimaginable for Santino and his family, they are thankful for the most important thing of all—the fact that he is still here and still fighting.
“We are so appreciative of those that go out and continue to donate blood. You are helping to save my son.”
At times like these, we are reminded that there is no substitute for human blood. To help Santino and those battling against cancer and other health challenges, schedule an appointment to donate by clicking here. Follow Santino’s journey by visiting his Facebook group Team Santino.