SPRINGBORO, Ohio - Just how tough can a tiny, seven-month-old child be? Centerville's Hudson Xavier Marshall is tough enough to battle back against neuroblastoma, the most common and often fatal infant cancer and to inspire more than 100 people to donate blood in his honor.
Hudson was diagnosed with neuroblastoma less than three months after his birth. He underwent chemotherapy and received multiple blood product transfusions as his doctors worked to shrink the tumors near his adrenal gland. He recently underwent successful surgery to have the tumors removed.
Friends of the family rallied support for Hudson by sponsoring a donor center blood drive at the Dayton Community Blood Center (CBC) Saturday, April 19 and partnering with Covenant Presbyterian Church in Springboro for the "Baby Hudson Blood Drive" Tuesday, April 22.
Support for the blood drives was overwhelming and heartwarming. Donors for Hudson contributed to 59 registrations, nine first-time donors and 53 donations Saturday at CBC. Tuesday's "Baby Hudson Blood Drive" at Covenant Presbyterian had 109 registrations, 19 first-time donors, and 92 blood donations for 133% of the collection goal.
Covenant Presbyterian is one of CBC's most dedicated blood drive sponsors and a regular "Platinum" LifeSaving Ambassadors Club award winner for hosting six blood drives per year. Combining with the Baby Hudson Blood Drive meant extending the drive by two hours and it more than doubled the usual number of donors.
"I'm very excited, I didn't expect this turn-out to be honest," said Hudson's dad Steve Marshall, who donated blood Saturday and greeted friends and spoke to media at the blood drive Tuesday. "We never really understood about childhood cancer, but what we've been through opened up our eyes. Blood is one of the most important things people need. It means a lot to us. We're trying to keep as positive as we can, and trying to let people see it can be taken care of, and that can be a help to families in need."
Steve's wife Andrea is a teacher at Springboro Junior High School, which rallied support for the family. Infants undergoing chemotherapy require frequent diaper changes, and a school-sponsored drive resulted in 9,000 diaper donations.
"I remember when we first heard about it," said Julia Puckett, a fellow 8th grade English teacher with Andrea who donated at Tuesday's blood drive. "How do you teach the rest of the day once you know what's going on? But the Marshalls, they've been great. Their faith is so strong. I would have been a basket case."
Steve gives all the credit for the blood drive success to Kristen Derringer, a childhood friend and the only girl on his youth T-ball team. Kristen's boyfriend is Sinclair Community College baseball coach Steve Dintaman, who brings his whole team to CBC for an annual tour and to donate.
"I would read Andrea's blog," Kristen said. "They didn't want monetary donations, just thoughts and prayers. I was sitting there thinking about what I could do. I had been with Steve's team at the blood center and I thought - I could sponsor a blood drive."
Her efforts included spreading the word on social media, recruiting donors, and gathering sponsors for raffle prizes, including hats, t-shirts and a baseball signed by the Sinclair team. At the blood drive she gave each donor an "Today I Donated for Hudson" sticker with his photo, then photographed the donor for an album she will give to the family. "I'm not very good at scrapbooking, but I'll try to make something for them," she said.
A special reward from the blood drive was the show of support from loyal friends. "Steve was best man at my wedding and I was best man at his," said childhood friend Jordan Begley as he donated Tuesday. "We have kids of our own. We have a two-month old. My wife was pregnant when they found out about Hudson. It really hit home for us."
Joe Meredith made his milestone 5th lifetime donation in Hudson's name. "Steve and I went to West Carrollton High School together," he said. "We've been friends a long time."
West Carrollton classmate Brittney Rabold made her first lifetime donation Tuesday. "I've never donated before, until today. It's my first time," she said, while chatting with Steve and Jordan as she donated. "I have a baby a month older than Hudson, and it breaks my heart every time."
The prognosis for Hudson after his surgery is good, says Steve. "He's done with treatment for the moment, though it will be about two more years to say he is cancer free. We're hopeful he will be OK."
They also hope to continue with an annual Baby Hudson Blood Drive, with the goal of sending a message of hope to other families. "If you know anybody going through it, anything helps. We've had people bring us dinners. Whether it's blood donations or helping a non-profit, anything you can do helps.