1 year old battling rare form of anemia

Ofelia Garcia Hunter, Alice Echo-News Journal

Jon Paul Medina-Zambrano, 1, is like any ordinary boy who likes to jump and dance, except that he has been diagnosed with a blood disorder - Aplastic Anemia.

Jon Paul has been in and out of Driscoll Children's Hospital five times and undergone surgery since November 2006.

"In November he was learning how to walk and I noticed a lot of bruising on his legs," Carla Zambrano, Jon Paul's mother, said. "If he develops a bacterial infection it would be bad for him."

Zambrano, who is a nurse, said Aplastic Anemia is a rare blood disorder and Jon Paul's immune system attacks the bone marrow.

"His white blood count is very low," she said. "I also want to raise awareness that Jon Paul is in need of platelets."

She said that individuals could set up an appointment with a blood bank to donate platelets, about a two-hour procedure. She said the process involves donating blood where the platelets are sifted out and the blood is replaced back into the individual.

In the last two months, Jon Paul has had surgery to implant a medi-port to administer medication more easily without having to poke his arm multiple times, his mother said. He underwent platelet and blood transfusions.

Since his mother noticed the bruises, Jon Paul has had to have lab work and testing for bone marrow and biopsies. Carla Zambrano said he had small signs of leukemia, but it was ruled out.

Just before Christmas Jon Paul seemed to be doing better and he was able to go home, but on Christmas Eve, he went into respiratory distress.

"On Christmas Eve he was put in (the) Pediatrics Intensive Care Unit, Jon was very sick and had problems breathing," Carla Zambrano said over the phone from his hospital room. "He was fighting for his life. He was our Christmas miracle because he did a complete 360-degree turn."

Because of Jon Paul's constant need for blood platelets and his severe form of Aplastic Anemia, his family and friends are having a replacement blood drive from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday at the Hospitality House at the intersection of Third and King streets. The blood drive will be in conjunction with a benefit barbecue brisket sale with trimmings of rice, beans and potato salad for $5.50 a plate.

Individuals interested in purchasing tickets can contact Carla Zambrano at 389-1961.

Zambrano said Jon Paul's spirit is high and he likes to throw kisses at the nurses.

"He is full of life and he gives me inspiration and gives me hope," she said over the phone as her voice began to shake.

"Everybody has been great, thanks to all of my family and friends and the staff from Driscoll Children's Hospital's oncology and hematology department. They have become like family to us."