One mom speaks on the anniversary of her son’s death, and her drive to save lives

September 19, 2019

Last year I featured the story of Natalie Beveridge, a mom of two, whose baby boy Kieran had just been diagnosed with leukemia, and who was planning a blood donation drive in order to help people in need of blood, just like little Keiran.

Her beautiful boy passed away just days after I published the post, and Natalie hasn’t lost her drive to save lives, and bring awareness to the critical need for blood and plasma donation.

One year on, I caught up with Natalie about the events of the year, and the importance of blood donation.

What have you achieved since Keiran’s death?

I am actively involved in promoting the critical role the SANBS plays in South Africa and how blood and platelet donations can save countless lives.

I host regular blood drives in Dainfern in honour of Keiran. Last weekend was my 5th one.The first drive hosted a year ago on the weekend of his passing yielded 254 units of blood, which was enough to potentially save over 700 lives.

Sadly Keiran passed away on the 9th of September but he died a hero and his legacy lives on through my families active campaigning for Tiny but Mighty acts of love and kindness.

I also help raise funds and awareness for childhood cancer charities that support families affected by this horrible disease. I assist Cupcakes of Hope and CHOC as they do fantastic work by inspiring hope and assisting families in their darkest days.

I also try raise awareness and  educate people around the prevalence of Childhood Cancer and how 50% of cases are either missed or undiagnosed as we are unaware of the early warning signs. Early detection is key and vital for greater survival rates. Childhood cancer isn’t rare, and we need to be vigilant and empowered to help those that don’t have the resources, education or platform to find help.

I have spoken at two public speaking events (I like talking so that’s the easy part,  discussing my loss is the tough part) so bring lots of tissues if you hear me speak at an event.

I also do work with an NPO called The Baby Box Project which collects newborn baby care items, products, nappies and baby grows and blesses new moms in government hospitals with a Baby Bag which has all the essentials for the first few days of their new babies’ life.

This helps inspire these mothers to bond and connect with their baby, it helps them feel loved and supported and offers assistance to these mommies who often feel helpless and vulnerable. The message is that they are not alone and they can find help if they are overwhelmed – drastically reducing the instances of newborn abandonment and infant mortality.

What is the difference between donating blood and donating platelets? Why is the latter so important?

Donating blood at mobile drive typically collects whole blood product. Whole blood consists of red and white blood cells as well as platelets.

This blood is then used for red blood cell transfusions and in some instances is spun for platelet collection. Red blood cells are used when a patients haemoglobin levels are low resulting in less oxygenated blood getting to organs.

Red blood cells are used in emergency situations, operations and  when someone is severely depleted due to the bodies inability to produce health blood cells due to illness.  You can donate whole blood every 56 days (six weeks. Donation takes about 20 minutes.

Platelets on the other hand are a critical component of blood. Platelets are tiny blood cells that help your body form clots to stop bleeding. Platelets ensure you do not suffer from internal bleeding and haemorrhaging and are used extensively in seriously ill patients, accident victims with heavy bleeding, and when a patient is being given chemo and radiation as their bone marrow cannot produce enough platelets for the body to clot and stop bleeding.

Platelets are collected at SANBS donor centres and the process to donate takes a bit longer than a normal whole blood donation. Platelets have a very short life span and once donated, need to be delivered to the patient for immediate transfusion.

What would you want people to know about blood donation?

South Africa has a critical shortage of regular blood donations. We require over 3 300 units to be donated per day to meet demand. Less than 1% of South Africans are blood donors this should be at least 2-3% to meet international standards. One donation can save up to 3 lives. 

How did donated blood help Keiran’s length of life?

From the day of Keiran’s diagnosis we needed blood and platelets almost on a daily basis. The wait for blood and platelets was agonising and I remember clearly screaming at nurses in the ICU asking “Whesre is this blood!?” and their response was that it was on order but they had no stock.

I was dumbfounded, terrified and completely freaked out. Every second counted and we waited almost 12 hours to get blood on one occasion. It was the most cruel and brutal suffering for a mother to see her child on the brink of death and not be able to save him. We had six more weeks with Keiran, time we would never have had if we had never received the lifesaving blood and platelets from selfless donors.

Do the days without Keiran get any easier?

Some days I feel like I am in a hurricane and being thrown about, battered and bruised. Some days it’s hard to breathe, face people and rise above my pain – many things trigger me and make me go into full blown panic attack mode. It’s unpredictable and can surprise me.

I struggle with people’s names now, have lost parts of my memory as a result of the trauma and often feel panicked when I can’t recall an event. However, I’ve learnt that this is part of the grief cycle.

I have to go easy on myself, be kind to myself and breathe. I am not sure the days get any easier – I think you learn how to operate with pain as your constant companion. I just choose to turn my pain into action as I can see its effect in a positive way. Love makes you brave – my love for my son makes me brave to face hard days.

How do you get up and show strength on the hard days?

The fact I get to open my eyes and live today, a privilege denied to my son who passed away at nine months is the reason I get up because I know that today even if I do something “Tiny” it could be something that has a “Mighty” impact on this world.

That is what helps me push through tough days. My mantra #LoveNeverDies is pertinent because each “Tiny” act has a ripple effect and if done with the right intention, that love can never die. Those are the “Tiny” things that change the world!

Explain the concept Tiny the Mighty?

TinyTheMighty is the whole concept of doing something “Tiny” and through that act of love and kindness those tiny things all amount to something “Mighty”.

Keiran may only have been nine months old when he passed but he has left a “Mighty” legacy.

We each have the gift and power to change someone’s life or support them through a dark moment in time.

It doesn’t take massive amounts of time and money. You could do a multitude of things and make a massive difference

  • Donate blood
  • Become a bone marrow donor by registering with The South African Bone Marrow Association or Sunflower Fund
  • Become an organ donor
  • Support childhood cancer charities like Cupcakes of Hope, CHOC and Rainbows and Smiles
  • Collect items for The Baby Box Project
  • Volunteer your time at a charity drive, help create awareness and educate those around you
  • Turn your social media emojis and intention into visible action

People can follow my page on FB and Instagram  @tinythemightysa -Keiran Kicking Cancer for updates on my journey and how we keep TinyTheMighty’s life and legacy alive

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