A group of more than 60 volunteers — classmates, teammates and neighbors — gathered in a parking lot to donate blood in support of one of their own.
The Houchin Community Blood Bank hosted a community blood drive Saturday in honor of Pedro Roman, 17, a Valencia High School varsity football player who’s entering his second year battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
“(In 2019), he was unexpectedly diagnosed with leukemia, and has since had quite a journey,” said Synthia Rocha, an account manager for Houchin Blood Bank. “They tried this treatment called CAR T-cell therapy, and that put him into remission.
“However, last week he fell out of remission again. The cancer has spread to his brain and spinal cord,” said Rocha. “But he’s definitely fighting, he’s fighting very hard. So today’s event was to show Pedro that the city of Santa Clarita is here, and he has our support.”
Nicole Robinson and Sophie O’Hara, Valencia High seniors who protected themselves from the brisk air, and the pandemic, in jackets and masks while sitting in the Centre Pointe Parkway parking lot for the drive, said even though they aren’t classmates with Roman, they still felt it important to come out to show support for a member of their community.
“We’ve just donated whenever we could,” said Robinson, referencing the GoFundMe page set up to help Roman’s family with medical expenses. “Someone made masks for him so we bought those, and then now we’re at the blood drive.”
O’Hara said that last year, before COVID-19 sent students home, their student section at one of their varsity football team’s games dedicated the writing on their clothing and spirit banners to Roman.
“And all of our teachers told us about it, too, like, ‘Hey. there’s a blood drive: Go stop by,’” said O’Hara. “I think even though we don’t know him, he’s a member of our community; it’s good to help out and it’s not placing a burden on us.”
“There’s nothing else we can do to show our support, since we’re not in school, so it’s like any little thing (helps),” Robinson added.
The blood donated Saturday is set to be sent to City of Hope National Medical Center, a facility Houchin not only has a contract with, but where Roman is currently emitted, Rocha said. The blood supply for medical practitioners to use is “critically low” and in need of donors, she added. The family had expressed their support of the drive earlier this week, but Roman had not been able attend due to his hospitalization.
“Three lives can be saved per one pint of blood, and just to give you an idea, a trauma victim could require up to 50 units of blood,” said Rocha, adding that Roman has received over 100 blood transfusions over the course of his recovery. “So, they’re still traumas, they’re still surgeries, they’re still cancers that are going on in this, even though it seems like the emphasis is all on COVID.”
For more information on how to donate or host a blood drive, visit https://hcbb.com/.
Those wishing to financially donate to Roman’s family can visit their GoFundMe page at https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-15year-old-diagnosed-with-leukemia.