OAKLAND -- The blood donors who kept Dillon Low alive for five years never knew his name.
On Friday, at the American Red Cross Oakland Donor Center, four of the donors met face to face with 6-year-old Dillon and his grateful family.
"We are deeply humbled and awed by your gift," Dillon's mother, Carol Low, told donors Gail Grassi, of Oakland; Joseph Gebis, of Berkeley; Mark Troxell, of Castro Valley; and Hal Teasdale, a longtime Moraga resident who recently moved to Oakland.
The donors walked down a red carpet to meet Dillon and his parents, Carol and Alex Low, of San Ramon, as a crowd of about 80 Red Cross workers cheered.
The event, the first of its kind for the American Red Cross in the Bay Area, came about after Carol Low asked to meet the donors to thank them for giving her son the gift of life.
Low told the crowd that she and her husband, Alex, knew something was wrong moments after Dillon was born. He was pale and his lips were blue. Within an hour, he received his first blood transfusion.
"Little did we know this would be the first transfusion of many," she said.
Dillon was born with Diamond Blackfan anemia, a rare genetic disorder that keeps bone marrow from producing an adequate supply of red blood cells. There are only 700 known cases of the disorder worldwide.
The condition made Dillon lethargic and often irritable, and it slowed his growth.
The only treatments are corticosteroids or
The American Red Cross recruited a small group of donors with the right blood match to donate blood to Dillon. Over the first five years, Dillon went monthly to the John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek where he received 80 transfusions totaling six gallons of blood.
Due to confidentiality laws, the donors knew Dillon only as the "John Muir baby."
"All I knew was that there was this baby who needed my blood," Grassi said. "I worried about him."
Dillon's parents conceived a second son, Brody, through in vitro fertilization. The DNA of Brody, 3, was screened and found to be a 100 percent blood match with Dillon. In May, some of Brody's bone marrow was injected into Dillon's bloodstream.
The procedure did the trick, and Dillon was cured. He no longer needs blood transfusions and is now attending kindergarten.
"He's a regular boy running around," Carol Low said.
"To hear that he was cured was really a spectacular thing," Grassi said.
Gebis, who started donating 20 years ago as his small way of helping people, said seeing Dillon brought home the reality of giving blood.
"I thought it would be rewarding," he said of meeting Dillon. "But it was so much more than I was expecting."
Red Cross technician Paul Patterson had drawn blood from donors for the John Muir baby. "We take their blood, send it and hope that it goes somewhere that does some good," he said. "It's nice to see the end result of what we do."
Jeff Meyer, CEO of American Red Cross Northern California, said his organization receives about 400 blood donations per day. About 10 percent of the blood supply in Northern California is imported from other parts of the country. The blood goes mainly to trauma victims, cancer patients and patients undergoing elective surgeries, Meyer said.
Because it is only good for 42 days, "We need a constant replenishment of blood," Meyer said.
For details on how to donate blood, go to www.redcrossblood.org/northernca.
Contact Jason Sweeney at 925-847-2123. Follow him at Twitter.com/jason_sweeney.