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Ten-year-old Helen Forgey gives a thumbs up to all those who turn out for community blood drives. Forgey receives whole blood and platelets that must be replenished with drives like the one scheduled for Monday at the Minden Civic Center.  Courtesy Photo
Ten-year-old Helen Forgey gives a thumbs up to all those who turn out for community blood drives. Forgey receives whole blood and platelets that must be replenished with drives like the one scheduled for Monday at the Minden Civic Center. Courtesy Photo

One year ago today Jamie and Brandon Forgey received the news: their nine-year-old daughter Helen has B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

“The hardest words you will ever hear are ‘your child has cancer,’” Jamie Forgey said. “After that, the best words you can hear are ‘you are going to St. Jude.’”

Over the past year, Helen has had many bouts and hospital admissions for infections. She has endured kidney stones in both kidneys and has undergone surgery to remove one of the stones.

“She’s continuing to travel to Memphis to St. Jude Hospital once per month to receive lumbar punctures,” Jamie said. “She travels weekly to Shreveport to LSU to the Feist Weiller Cancer Center – a St. Jude affiliate – to receive her IV chemo.”

Her mother said Helen is receiving a modified dose of chemotherapy now to help her blood counts stay higher.

“We hoped that would keep her from being sick so often, which seems to be helping so far until this week,” Jamie said.

To date Helen has received 27 whole blood and/or platelet transfusions, which tends to make family and friends aware of the importance of community blood drives.

“Helen has made many friends along the way including Mary Jo Henderson with LifeShare and Brian
Allison with LifeShare’s ‘Be The Match’ stem cell and bone marrow donations,” Jamie said. “She has thoroughly enjoyed helping them both bring in donors and has pledged to do so as long as she is able.”

Jamie said there is no doubt that more than just the chemotherapy has saved Helen during the past year.

“Without the blood and platelets that she was given to help her body fight this cancer – that were so graciously and selflessly donated – she would not be here with us today,” Jamie said. “We know that blood had to be given to replace what was gone because of the cancer … to replace what was lost during her harshest chemotherapy treatments, and to stabilize her body systems. We are so thankful every day that someone cared enough to donate blood that they knew would help save a life.”

As a family, they pray daily that everyone would take the time to give the gift of life to someone who will need it.

“People receive blood for so many different reasons, but the only thing to remember is that the blood they receive is saving their lives,” Jamie said. “And please, please remember that the lives you help save by donating could be someone you know and love.”

Even at age 10, Helen knows the importance of blood donations.

“She would like to let everyone know that a donation of their life-saving gift of blood this Christmas will continue to help save many lives, including her’s,” her mother said. “She still has a year and several months of chemotherapy treatment to go, and she still may require blood during the course of the treatment.”

Mary Jo Henderson, LifeShare representative, said Helen is the reason blood drives are held.
“She’s a precious child,” Henderson said.

LifeShare’s Community Blood Drive for Christmas will be Monday, Dec. 15 from noon until 6 p.m. at the Minden Civic Center. Donors will receive a free special Christmas blood drive shirt.

Helen was well enough last winter to work the Minden St. Jude Auction and is planning to help Thursday, Jan. 29 through Sunday, Feb. 1 when the next auction takes place.

“She is looking forward to the auction and helping LifeShare again bring in donors there,” Jamie said. “She hopes to be able to be a big part of it all again.”

Henderson said the St. Jude blood drive will include Be The Match.

“Helen also encourages anyone who is able and interested to sign up for Be The Match,” her mother said. “She knows stem cells and bone marrow also save lives.”