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Pediatric cancer survivors share their stories of how blood donations helped them during cancer treatment

annie mateo.JPG
Posted at 8:55 AM, Aug 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-24 11:55:40-04

KSBY is teaming up with Vitalant for its 17th annual Be a Hero Blood Drive this Wednesday, August 25th at Vitalant’s locations in San Luis Obispo and Santa Maria from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Donating blood is not only a simple way to give back to your community, but it can save lives. That's what it did for two central coast children who couldn't move forward with their chemotherapy treatment without blood donations during their years-long cancer battles.

From the outside, Annie Blake and Mateo Cota, both nine years old, look like your average elementary-aged children. They like to be outside, have fun with friends, and play sports.

"I like just running around, getting outside, and doing physical things," Annie said.

But the road to get to these points wasn't easy for either of them.

In 2013, Mateo was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia just 11 days before his second birthday.

"When he was first diagnosed he was severely anemic," Erika Cota, Mateo's mom, said. "For him to go through with treatment he needed those life-saving doses or he couldn't even start treatment."

Mateo's health was dependent on blood donations and he would continue to receive them well into 2019 when he received a bone marrow transplant.

"Me and my husband were talking about how many transfusions he had and we couldn't even get close to the number, I mean it was several," Erika said.

"It was kind of hard because I couldn't do a lot of things, but afterward I felt better," Mateo said.

Like Mateo, Annie also needed life-saving blood donations.

"I had multiple blood transfusions during my treatment," Annie said.

Annie was diagnosed with leukemia in October of 2015. To start her treatment, she would need multiple blood and platelet transfusions.

"I had at least four before I could start my treatment," Annie said.

The donations would help her through the two and half years of treatment and ultimately lead her to the healthy, energetic lifestyle
that she lives today.

"I feel healthy and wanting to do more every day," Annie said.

Just like Mateo.

"It's better when I'm not in the hospital."

According to Vitalant, at least 250 units of blood are needed every day on the central coast.

For details on how to sign up for KSBY's Be a Hero Blood Drive, click here.