Blood Drive to Honor Boy Who Survived IPEX Syndrome

Leon “Lee” Garfat is a survivor.

The young boy was just 4 months old when doctors told his parents he wouldn’t live past 2. He had been diagnosed with a rare disease that corrupts the immune system. The disease was damaging his thyroid, and without an immediate bone marrow transplant, he would die.

Fortunately, Lee received the life-changing transplant and has lived to see another day. To honor the good donors that saved his life, Lee’s family is planning a blood drive in their name.

Lee’s disease is called IPEX syndrome. IPEX syndrome prevents a crucial protein in the body from transporting correctly, which causes autoimmune cells to attack the body’s tissue. There have only be 250 cases of IPEX Syndrome reported worldwide. To learn more about IPEX syndrome, click here.

Lee was placed on a long transplant list and within the first day, they had found a donor match. According to Lee’s physician, Dr. Jeffrey Bednarski, that kind of miracle is unheard of.

The transplant was successfully administered on December 2, 2014 and today, you’d never imagine the struggles he went through at first glance of Lee. Lee takes thyroid medication and has diabetes, but all signs of the IPEX Syndrome are gone.

Lee is now 3 years old and completely healthy. His family will be organizing a blood drive with the North Central Ohio chapter of the American Red Cross.

Blood played a defining role in Lee’s transplant. He received a transfusion every day for an entire month. It was blood that saved his life, so it’s only fitting that this drive would commemorate that survival.

Lee’s grandmother, Wendy. put in a request for a blood drive that was answered by Kelly Beck, a donor recruitment account manager. Her North Central Ohio Chapter of the Red Cross keeps the blood flowing with daily drives for 27 hospitals in Ohio.

In total, there have been 83 blood drives in Marion County, Ohio, and with Lee’s drive, their aim is to keep the blood flowing with 20 pints.

“We encourage walk-ins and we want people to understand the importance of donating blood,” Beck said in an interview with the Marion Star. “Most people know someone who has needed blood and it is something that can’t be manufactured — it has to come from people.”

One thing is certain… there will be blood.


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