Click photo to enlarge
Matthew Ouimet, 2, left, plays with his sister Molly, 10, at their home in Antioch, Calif., on Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013. Matthew is still recovering from a liver and kidney transplant at the UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital on June 4-5. He recently broke one arm, then the other, as his bones are brittle from doing dialysis prior to the transplant. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group)

ANTIOCH -- The family of Matthew Ouimet, the Antioch boy who received a life-sustaining kidney and liver transplant last June, set a personal record during a recent blood drive.

And because of the overwhelming community response, members of "Team Matthew" plan on having more blood drives, including a two-day event this summer.

The Feb. 8 drive at Prewett Family Park fell short of the American Red Cross Northern California Blood Services Region's one-day record of 191 pints, but it still amassed 124 pints.

That was a personal best for Team Matthew blood drives, which netted 122 pints and 74 pints at its two previous drives last summer. The blood collected could potentially save 372 lives, according to Red Cross officials.

"It always moves me how many people have never given before, but are inspired to for the first time because of this little guy," said Kristi Ouimet, Matthew's mother.

The family of Brandon Burnett, the 22-year-old Northern California deceased donor whose organs Matthew received, co-sponsored the event.

Matthew left many teary-eyed when he saw the photo of Burnett on filers, his mom said.

"Matthew told everyone, 'That's Brandon, he's my hero, he saved my life.'"

Jared Schultzman of the Red Cross said that the turnout went "as well as possibly expected" given that it was held in the heart of cold and flu season, and that particular Saturday was rainy, which may have kept some at home.


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Still, willing donors had to be turned away from the blood drive due to time constrictions.

"Usually 25 to 40 pints is considered successful, so what they did is extraordinary," Schultzman said.

Every bit of blood helps, especially after the two major winter storms in the eastern part of the United States has led to a blood shortage, Schultzman said. Since the beginning of January, winter storms have forced cancellation of more than 1,500 drives, resulting in nearly 50,000 uncollected blood and platelet donations.

Now, plans are under way for a two-day event on July 10-11 at Sat. Ignatius of Antioch Catholic Church so people won't feel so rushed.

The Ouimets are also looking at getting local high schools involved, likely next fall when the next school year starts, by sharing Matthew's story and possibly getting the campus communities involved in friendly competitions in blood and bone marrow drives.

Matthew was born with primary hyperoxaluria Type 1, a rare genetic condition that left him in need of a kidney and liver transplant. He had to wait 15 months on a transplant list before receiving the organs.

The Feb. 8 blood drive marked the beginning of a big week for Matthew. He's showing improvement, but he still has a long way to go and his medical care is ongoing.

Matthew celebrated his third birthday at home three days after the blood drive -- a low-key, small celebration that included his wishes of pizza and a cupcake. (He had a larger party Friday with an "Avengers" theme, including a Mickey Mouse-shaped pizza and "full-blown" cake.)

On Feb. 13, Matthew had a central line catheter pulled out of his torso, the first time he didn't have any tubes inserted as his bile duct shows signs of functioning better.

No tubes meant he was able to have his first bath in the "big bathtub."

"He had bubbles and everything and was able to play in the water," Kristi Ouimet said.

The toddler has also had sensory issues, showing a reluctance to get dirty or food on his fingers. However, he started to do some painting last week at UCSF's Benioff Children's Hospital. So, then they tried at home.

Kristi said he particularly liked the green paint, saying "Hulk smash!" while using his hands to color the paper. "We've had a lot of milestones lately," Kristi Ouimet said.

Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.

more Information:
To find out more about local blood drives or the requirements for giving blood, visit redcrossblood.org. To become an organ donor, visit donatelife.net.