Southfield mom thankful for donated blood that saved young son

Christine Gibson's worst fears came true while pregnant with son JoeJoe

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. - Saying "I love you" is an ordinary, everyday moment between a toddler and his mom. But, those are words a Southfield mother once feared she might never hear. In June of 2010, Christine Gibson was pregnant with JoeJoe, her third child. It had been her healthiest pregnancy so far, but that all changed in an instant. While Gibson was in labor, nurses suddenly couldn't find the baby's heartbeat.

"They decided they were going to put a little sensor on the baby's head. And they did that. And there was no heartbeat," said Gibson. It was a full placental abruption. The placenta had prematurely separated from the wall of the uterus, putting Gibson and the baby in jeopardy. They were both losing blood, and the medical staff rushed Gibson to the operating room for a C-section. "They said, 'It's going to take approximately ten minutes to prep for a C-section. You have until then to get this baby out the usual route,'" said Gibson.

It was all she needed to hear. Baby Joseph (JoeJoe) was born moments later. "There was no cry, there's nothing except people shouting," said Gibson.  "I could see his knee, through the crowd of elbows, because I'm still on the table." The baby wasn't breathing and needed blood. "They gave him one infusion of packed red blood cells and one infusion of platelets," said Gibson. JoeJoe is immediately transferred to Henry Ford Hospital, which has a bigger neonatal intensive care unit. Dad Leo Gibson was close behind in their car, but it would be an agonizing three hours before Christine could join them.

"The nurses kept saying, 'All you can do is pray.' And when the nurses say that, that was very frightening," said Gibson. JoeJoe would spend three days on a special cooling blanket to reduce the risk of brain damage. He would also need another blood transfusion. "I was never allowed to hold him or pick him up, which was all I wanted to do that first week," remembered Gibson. After ten days in the hospital, JoeJoe is cleared to go home. "Every major thing is fine, and we are just so incredibly thankful," said Gibson.

Now two and a half years old, JoeJoe is a happy, healthy toddler who loves golf, dressing up and playing with his cars and trucks. It will be years before they know if there are any lingering effects from his traumatic birth, but so far, all the tests are normal. His parents are forever grateful that the blood Joe Joe needed was there when every second counted. "He would be dead. That is what saved him," said Gibson. "It takes so little for people to go out and maybe spend, you know, half an hour of their time to give blood.  And it is literally the difference between life and death, for many people."

Gibson said her husband often donated blood before JoeJoe's birth, but it's a gift that has taken on new meaning for their family.
"I always thought about being on the giving end of that sort of thing. I never once thought we'd be on the receiving end," said Gibson.

And what would she say to the blood donors who will never know what a difference they made to little JoeJoe? "I'm incredibly, incredibly thankful for what they've done." The American Red Cross says there is an urgent need for blood right now, especially type O-negative and B-negative.

There will be blood drives at seven local Gardner-White locations on Thursday, Jan. 28.  For details, click here.

If you can't make it to a blood drive, you can always call (800) GIVE-LIFE to schedule an appointment to donate.

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