Batman will be there. So will Scooby-Doo. And Transformers, of course, several Disney princesses, some ninjas and a host of other celebrities in small boxes.
They and a lot of characters like them are expected at a blood drive at Countrywood Primary Center Feb.9 to support Long Island Blood Services and Countrywood student Liam Gorman, who needs blood transfusions every two or three weeks because of a rare disease called Diamond Blackfan Anemia.
"When Liam was born, he had low platelets but we had no idea what was wrong," his father Anthony Gorman said. "It was a very difficult birth. He got platelets in neo-natal and spent 32 days in NICU," the neo-natal intensive care unit. "When he was about 15 months he was diagnosed. Right after his first birthday, he started looking a little pale, his appetite decreased. It was a series of things, non-specific," his father said, explaining the journey that Liam and his mother, Clara and father then embarked upon to discover what was ailing the boy. After multiple tests, referrals, lab work and more, he was finally diagnosed with DBA.
The disease "is a rare genetic defect, classified as a bone marrow failure," Gorman, a paramedic, said. "His body doesn't produce red blood cells. There are genetic on/off switches, and in Liam, it's off. It's extremely rare, just 607 registered in the DBA database."
"Every two or three weeks he gets his blood products," Gorman said. And it was during those treatments and the preparations for his care that two ideas were born. One was Liam's discovery one day that the hospital had eliminated character Band-Aids for cheaper, plain bandages.
"Liam was at the hospital for a transfusion," Gorman said, when he discovered the change. "The drama was incredible. He had to have a regular Band-Aid. It changed his mood," Gorman said. "Liam said, 'we need Band-Aids. No boy or girl should have to have an adult bandage'," his father said Liam said. "So last April we reached out to some friends to collect character Band-Aids and you would not believe how many people jumped on board."
Boxes of character-themed bandages are being collected on a continuing basis to be donated to the hospitals where Liam, who is 6, gets his treatments, but Gorman is especially hopeful to see them at the Feb.9 blood drive, which will run from 1 to 7 p.m. And that's the second part of Liam's story.
While discussing his treatments with school personnel, Gorman said, Countrywood Principal Karen R. Siegel learned of the complexity of Liam's treatments, and responded with, "You're kidding me, we've got to help one of our own."
So the school is hosting the blood drive in Liam's honor. "By doing it in someone's honor, people realize, he's in your class, he plays with your son every day. By putting a face on it, the more people understand the need. It's not just a guy who's shot or stabbed," Gorman said.
"There is no cure, only treatment," Gorman said. Of his treatments, Liam "takes it like a champ. He's far braver than me or Clara," Gorman said. "Emotionally it's just such a huge toll."
There's also a blood drive in his name Feb.25 at the Smithtown VFW.