Donated blood keeping 5-year-old Rochester Hills boy 'Stephen Strong'

Family, friends help 'give back' lifesaving blood

ROCHESTER HILLS, Mich. – His name is Stephen Hohauser, but his fans call him "Stephen Strong."

It's been about a year and a half since Stephen's family received the devastating diagnosis of neuroblastoma. That's a cancer that develops from nerve cells, and most often strikes children under age 5.

In the past year, Stephen started kindergarten, went fishing and spent time with some of his law enforcement, firefighter and K-9 heroes.

But he also endured long days and nights in the hospital and countless painful procedures.

"Five rounds of chemotherapy, 21 treatments of proton, five rounds of immunotherapy treatment," said Stephen's mother, Mariana Hohauser.

In addition to the medicine and prayers, Hohauser said regular transfusions of red blood cells and platelets have kept Stephen going.

"Stephen this summer actually developed something called TMA, which is a side effect from the high dose of his chemotherapies and the bone marrow transplants," Hohauser said. "That affects his blood pressure, but it also makes his body eat his platelets and his hemoglobin. Every day he was either getting blood or he was getting platelets."

At one point, Stephen's platelets were life-threateningly low.

"He wouldn't be here without it," Hohauser said. "It saved his life."

But when local or national blood supplies ran low, it was terrifying.

"The fires, the hurricanes, the floods, the cold weather now," Hohauser said. "When you hear the nurse call down and say, 'I need radiated blood. This much amount,' and you hear the person on the other line going, 'I don't have that, I don't have that amount.' It's like crickets on the other line just going chirp, chirp, chirp. You can't, you just can't. You're, like, 'What am I supposed to do? How am I supposed to get this blood to save this kid's life?'"

Each time, donated blood arrived in time.

"We have no way of repaying that," Hohauser said. "It's wonderful. It's priceless."

But they want to try, so last week, Stephen's family friend Amy Zolno organized a blood drive in his honor.

"Watching Stephen struggle has been really hard," Zolno said. "He's been such a fighter through all of this. It's made me want to just jump up and do everything I can to help."

The blood wasn't for Stephen, but for anyone else who might need it. Once again, family, friends and strangers lined up to give.

"It's important," Zolno said. "It's important for people to donate, and you don't really know until you're in that situation sometimes how important it really is to give blood. It's been great seeing the community come together and want to help other people."

"Thank God, right now, Stephen is good, and he doesn't need it," Hohauser said. "But there's other little ones that are in his shoes that need it, and there's other families that might not have the support that Stephen has to be able to do this."

The Red Cross is grateful, and urges anyone who can to donate as soon as possible.

"The blood that is coming in is disappearing so quickly, and we don't have enough blood for surgeries, for accidents, to treat the people who need it," said Kathy Ritter, a territory representative for the Red Cross. "We need to get our blood supply back up as soon as possible."

Stephen is still fighting, but he knows he's not alone.

"I can't fathom how many wonderful people have been there for us," Hohauser said. "It takes everybody. It's not an individual fight."

To help ease the blood shortage, Local 4 has teamed up with Gardner-White and the Red Cross for blood drives to be held on Thursday. For details, click here.

To learn more about donating blood or to make an appointment to donate, click here.

To visit the "Stephen Strong" Facebook page, click here.