‘Patients are alive because of what you’re doing’

Levarr Butler, a patient at the UI Hospital being treated for leukemia

“When people donate blood for me I have more energy,” says Levarr Butler, who is being treated for leukemia. Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin/UIC Photo Services

Levarr Butler spends his free time like a lot of 11-year-old boys: bowling on the Nintendo Wii, watching TV shows on Cartoon Network and finding fun apps for his iPad.

But for now, he does these things in the UI Hospital, where he’s been a patient since Aug. 24.

Levarr, who has acute myeloid leukemia, is just one of the patients who benefit from campus blood donors.

Since he’s been in the hospital, Levarr has received transfusions of red blood cells or platelets nearly every week, said his doctor, Lewis Hsu, professor of clinical pediatrics.

“Sometimes I don’t have energy, then when people donate blood for me I have more energy,” Levarr said.

Diagnosed in June, Levarr has been in and out of the hospital for much of the past three months.

He finished chemotherapy treatments Oct. 4 but will likely remain in the hospital for a few more weeks as his immune system strengthens.

Levarr’s mom, Batia, grandmother, Julia, and grandfather, Cleo, take turns spending time with him while he’s hospitalized.

“He’s a blessing,” Batia said. “He plays a lot and has a good sense of humor. He makes me very happy.

“He’s my hero.”

All blood donations collected at the Blood Donor Center and through campus blood drives benefit patients at the UI Hospital, said Andrew Ross, blood and apheresis donor recruiter.

“There are three supplies we all share: air, water and blood,” he said. “This is real — your blood is being used and these patients are alive because of what you’re doing.”

Nicolette Bellos

Since 2007, the Bellos family has sponsored a campus blood drive to honor their daughter, Nicolette, who died in 2011 at age 20.

Since 2007, the Bellos family has sponsored a campus blood drive to honor their daughter, Nicolette, who died in 2011 at age 20.

“If you ask anyone, you would always hear that she was so sweet and caring,” said her mom, Cathy Bellos. “It was the little things that always mattered to her.”

Nicolette was treated at UI Hospital after she was diagnosed with leukemia in 2006 and received a kidney transplant.

“When we first brought her to the hospital in 2007 she was hemorrhaging so she needed a lot of transfusions,” Cathy said. “Prior to the transplant, she had a lot of treatments of plasmapheresis. I quit counting after 90.”

The family plans to continue hosting drives in Nicolette’s memory. Nearly 100 people donated blood at their last drive in March.

“It was her idea to do the blood drives,” Cathy said. “It was near and dear to her. She was such a giving person.”

Each year, the donor center aims to recruit about 2,000 blood donors and 300 platelet donors, Ross said. About three-quarters of blood donors on campus are students, he added.

“We’re pretty close (for this year) on the blood donors but still down on platelet donations,” he said.

From start to finish, the process of giving blood or platelets takes about an hour, Ross said. Donors can give blood every 56 days and platelets 24 times a year.

And donations make a world of difference to patients, Batia Butler said.

“Without blood, Levarr’s energy is real low, he’s tired and his head hurts,” she said. “As soon as he gets blood, his energy is back and he’s back to normal.”


Blood donation at UI Hospital donor center

Nurse Elizabeth Berry finishes collecting a blood donation from John Conroy at the UI Hospital as donor recruiter Andrew Ross offers Conroy juice and snacks. Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin/UIC Photo Services

Ways to give blood
Students and employees can give blood at the main donor center (first floor UI Hospital) from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Donors are encouraged to make an appointment on weekdays; appointments are required on Saturdays.

Upcoming blood drives (from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.) include:

• Tau Beta Pi Blood Drive, Nov. 2, SCE atrium

• ROTC/Veterans Day Blood Drive, Nov. 8, Ft. Dearborn Room, SCE

• Blood Donor Center Mini-Blood Drives, Nov. 9, SCE atrium, and Nov. 30, 605 SCE

• BioMedical Engineering Society Blood Drive, Nov. 13, Ft. Dearborn Room, SCE

• College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs Blood Drive, Nov. 14, 110 CUPPA Hall

• Minority Association of Pre-Health Students Blood Drive, Nov. 16, 605 SCE

For more information or to sponsor a drive, email andross@uic.edu or call 312-996-6970.

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