Valuable players

At his most vulnerable stage in life, an unidentifiable illness left eight-month-old Brendan constantly fighting infections. 11 years on, thanks to New Zealand’s generous donors and their donations, a weekly plasma-derived product has not only kept Brendan alive, it has let him live.

Brendan was just a baby when he first fell ill. He and his parents had travelled to Christchurch for a family gathering when Brendan developed a fever. The Hamilton-based Judd family rushed to the local A&E, where baby Brendan was diagnosed with pneumococcal meningitis and given only a 10% chance of surviving the night.

While family and friends gathered round the hospital preparing for the worst, little Brendan fought tirelessly, and with the help of his first ever platelet transfusion he managed to pull through. While it was a moment to rejoice, it also marked the start of a series of non-stop pneumococcal infections for Brendan. What was first thought to be Leukaemia was then diagnosed as acute myelofibrosis, a bone marrow disorder that disrupts the body’s normal production of blood cells.

Despite being put on antibiotics for his first years of life to help fight all the constant pneumococcal infections, Brendan still kept getting sick. At three years old, he was put on Intragam P – a plasma-derived blood product that helps manage immune deficiencies, and this was a total game changer not just for Brendan’s health but for dad Lewis, little sister Hayley and mum Rachel. Although they still had to visit the hospital to get the treatment administered, for the entire year Brendan was on Intragam P, he had zero hospital admissions – a feat that allowed the Judd’s to start reclaiming a sense of ‘normality’ into their lives. At five years old, Brendan was put on EVOGAM, (which he has been receiving since) another plasma-derived product, but one that does not require to be administered into the vein but instead under the skin and can be done from the comfort of one’s own home.

“Through a variety of tests, we’ve learned Brendan is the only patient in the in world with a rare undiagnosed disorder which gives him chronic immunodeficiency, hence his need for blood products”, says mum Rachel.

“He’s incredibly unique and his health and quality of life have been dramatically improved thanks to New Zealand’s donors, 540 of them actually! What may only be a couple minutes’ worth of time for a donor, is a godsend for us.

“Brendan hasn’t had a single hospital admission since starting the immunoglobulin therapy when he was three. It literally changed our lives over night because we’ve been able to give Brendan the best possible life he can live. If it wasn’t for people out there who donate, we wouldn’t have Brendan here with us. It’s literally the donors that are keeping him alive.

“Aside from the weekly blood product, you wouldn’t know he’s sick. Brendan is a beautiful, normal kid. He’s popular in school, loves soccer – he scored 29 goals this season and recently received an award for most valuable player!”.

As Brendan’s grown older, he’s not just learned to accept his treatment and his condition, he’s taken control. Two years ago, he made the decision to start removing his needles on his own and recently decided to put his own needles in, with mum’s close supervision of course. He takes this same determination and control out onto the soccer field, where he gets to do what he loves most. Brendan’s not only alive, he gets to live thanks to generous Kiwi donors who, like Brendan, are New Zealand Blood Service’s very own valuable players.

To find out more about how you can become a blood donor, click here or call 0800 GIVE BLOOD.

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