A blood drive will be held Wednesday in honor of Madison Charland, pictured here with her parents Sherri and Eric Charland. A severe blood shortage in Maine threatens patients, like Madison, from receiving blood and platelet transfusions when they need them. Contributed / Jeremy Moreau

Nineteen-month-old Madison Charland has had more than 10 blood transfusions since being diagnosed with leukemia in March of this year.

Her cancer is now in remission after treatment that included vital blood and platelet transfusions.

“There was one time, Madison had to get the proper match for blood and we had to wait a day to get it from New Hampshire,” said her mother Sherri Charland.

Madison Charland was diagnosed with leukemia at 10 months. After treatment, including numerous blood and platelet transfusions, her cancer is in remission. Contributed / Jeremy Moreau

Waiting is a reality for many transfusion patients amid the severe blood shortage in Maine and throughout the nation. Donations are at a 10-year low, according to the American Red Cross, which supplies about 40% of the nation’s blood.

“Typically, we like to have a five-day supply on hand. Recently we’ve been operating with less than a half-day supply,” said Jennifer Costa, communications director for the American Red Cross of Northern New England, which serves Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.

The shortage is due to “a perfect storm,” Costa said. The COVID-19 pandemic has posed challenges for donors and now people are distracted by the holidays.

Further complicating the situation is a 30% drop in first-time donors compared to last year, she said.

“Every day in Maine, we need to collect 152 pints of blood to meet patient demand,” Costa said.

That adds up to 1,064 Mainers every week, but once someone donates, they are not eligible to donate for eight weeks.

“We need to find more than 1,000 different Mainers every week just to meet the demands. We’re obviously behind,” Costa said.

Madison’s uncle, Scarborough firefighter and paramedic Jeremy Moreau, has organized a blood drive for  Wednesday, Dec. 29, at the Public Safety Building in honor of his niece.

“I saw the difference that it makes when Madison needed blood platelets,” Moreau said.

Within a couple of hours of receiving the platelets, Madison’s skin color went back to normal after looking pale and bruised. She had been lethargic, but after the transfusion she wanted to play and was “smiling and laughing,” he said.

Every two seconds, someone in the United States needs blood, yet only 3% of the population donates, Costa said. Many people just assume blood will be there if they need it, but “it’s not a guarantee.”

“There’s no other source for blood than volunteer donors,” she said.

Until her child needed transfusions, Madison’s mother was among those who took the availability of blood for granted.

“People don’t realize they need blood until they get hit by a situation like this,” she said.

Madison, nine months after her diagnosis, is in remission. Her uncle and mother encourage people to come out and donate blood to help other children like her and all who need blood.

“Think about the difference that makes in someone’s life,” Moreau said. “It’s such a simple thing to do. Maybe it’ll take an hour out of your day, and that hour could save up to three lives right there.”

Charland, of Biddeford, is grateful for her brother and the Scarborough Fire Department for hosting the blood drive.

“He’s been a big supporter,” she said. “He’s Madison’s No. 1 fan.”

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