Local family’s mission to help others in son’s name
By Teddy Rydquist
Leader Staff Writer
Celebrating his fourth birthday last Wednesday, Nov. 13, Abraham “Abe” Peace is a daily motivational reminder of perseverance.
The son of Oxford residents Chris and Kristina Peace, Abe was born with a congenital heart condition called hypoplastic left heart syndrome.
At an age where most children are still in preschool, the road has been tough on Abe and the Peace family, Chris said.
“What his diagnosis means is he is missing the left ventricle of his heart. He has had open-heart surgeries, had brain surgery, a cystic fibrosis scare, epilepsy, there’s all kinds of things going on.”
Throughout these difficult times, the Peace family made an interesting discovery and found a way to use that to benefit the community.
“During these open-heart surgeries, we came to find out that he received about 24 units of blood, which obviously, is a lot,” Chris shared.
A unit of blood is about 525 milliliters, roughly the size of one pint.
“I’ve been a donor since before Abe was born, and I consistently try to give,” he continued.
“Once we had Abe and saw how many units he was getting, it become kind of a more important thing for us to support the American Red Cross in a larger way than just being donors. We had talked about it for a couple of years, my wife and I, about just how cool it would be to do a blood drive around Abe’s birthday.”
This year, thanks to the Oxford Fire Department, that’s exactly what they were able to do.
Formed in 1881, the Red Cross is responsible for about 40% of the blood donated in the United States. The organization sells the blood to hospitals and regional suppliers, where it can be used to help children battling serious illnesses, like Abe.
Holding their event on Nov. 9, the Peace family’s first ever blood drive resulted in a whopping 39 donated pints over six hours – nine more than their goal headed in.
“We started in the middle of the year getting this arranged, all the details sorted out,” Chris explained.
“We had it at the fire department, and it was a really good, fulfilling time. It was a long day that went by way too quickly, if that makes sense.”
Due to the success of the event, the family is hoping to continue using this platform to give back in the future.
“It was a great time. We would love to make this at least an annual thing, if not a semi-annual thing. We’re not sure exactly how we’re going to do it, but we definitely want to do this at least once a year celebrating our son and other kids like him.”
In addition to the difference a blood donation can make, the family is raising awareness for organ donation, as this will play a key role in the Abe’s life moving forward.
“Basically, the course of treatment for Abe’s heart condition is not permanent, it’s not considered a full repair,” his father said. “The entire course of treatment is designed to, when he gets old enough, give him an adult heart transplant because hearts of young children his age are very hard to come by. We had information available for Donate Life America at the blood drive and we hope to do more with them moving forward.”
Headquartered in Richmond, Virginia and founded in 1992, Donate Life America is the nation’s leader in organ, eye and tissue donations. Officially proclaimed by president George W. Bush in 2003, April is “National Donate Life Month.” Every year in this month, the organization ramps up their efforts to raise nationwide awareness about the difference you can make in someone’s life by considering becoming an organ donor.
Consistently rating as one of the best pediatric centers in the United States, Abe receives his treatments at the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor. In fact, the hospital fittingly possesses a Congenital Heart Center that ranks among the largest in country.
Bonded even closer as a family through this experience, Chris also pointed out the pivotal role the couple’s other son, eight-year-old Sam, plays in Abe’s life.
“Sam is an amazing kid. He’s the opposite of his brother, Abe is hell on wheels,” he said laughingly. “Which is surprising, considering what he’s been through. You won’t find a kid that’s more compassionate for his brother than Sam is.”