When Mark Woolsey said he couldn’t, his children said we can and we will.
The incredible story of teenagers taking their father’s place in a lifesaving effort began when Woolsey fell ill with a rare and for some doctors a mysterious disease.
In 2008, Woolsey was a 34-year-old civil engineer, with a wife, five young children, and a sixth child on the way. Also a regular blood donor, he appeared to be the picture of health.
But Woolsey began to get very sick. And despite the efforts of many doctors, numerous hospitalizations and countless tests, no one seemed to know why Woolsey was growing severely anemic. As plans were being made to airlift Woolsey to UCLA, a doctor new to his case concluded he had granulomatosis with polyangiitis, or GPA, a rare disorder that causes the blood vessels in the nose, sinuses, throat, lungs and kidneys to become inflamed.
Formerly called Wegener's granulomatosis, GPA is one of a group of vasculitis blood vessel disorders, which slow blood flow to some of organs and cause the inflammation of affected tissues. If diagnosed early, patients can expect full recovery. Without treatment, GPA can be fatal.
Doctors immediately began treating Woolsey with chemotherapy and blood transfusions. Within seven months, Woolsey was able to return to work.
Since 2011, Woolsey, who is now 43, has been in a chemically-induced remission. Woolsey and his wife, Jennifer, live in Bakersfield with five of their six children — Ekaterina (Kat), 18; Annelise, 16; Quinlynn, 13; Hyrum, 11; and Jasper, 8. The oldest, Teancum, 20, serves as a church missionary in Indiana.
And while Woolsey, who continues to take daily oral chemotherapy drugs, is no longer is able to donate blood, the children are grateful for the lifesaving donations that saved their father’s life.
“In my father’s honor, my older brother, Teancum, began to donate blood as soon as he was 16,” said Kat, who is a student at Bakersfield College. “I did the same, as did my sister, Annelise, when she turned 16.”
Woolsey is touched by his children’s decision to donate in his place. “I feel like three donations are made in my name each time, instead of the single one I used to give. That’s a great feeling. I’m really proud of my kids for helping out the community that way.
“I’ve always felt donating blood is such an important service. Everyone should do it if they can. I used to donate as often as possible,” he added.
“If people had not donated blood, my father would not be alive today. We are so grateful for blood donors. We are so honored to take our father’s place,” said Kat.