Father’s love sparks blood drive

Published 1:03 am Saturday, September 7, 2019

NATCHEZ — Students at schools throughout the region are giving blood in response to the stories of two teens who battled cancer, and Natchez High School is joining the cause Tuesday.

Sheri Book, southwest representative for Mississippi Blood Services, said two blood buses are scheduled to be parked outside NHS from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday in honor of a Natchez teen who died Aug. 27, 2018, after battling bone cancer for two years.

Markia Sullivan, 13, attended Robert Lewis Magnet School before she was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in December 2016, said Markia’s mother, Tangela Sullivan.

Email newsletter signup

“It was tough — extremely tough,” Tangela said.

Tangela said people showed up to support her family up until Markia died, and today she and her husband, Marcus Sullivan, try to do the same for others fighting the same battle.

“All of the support we received in the past while our daughter was battling cancer was wonderful and that is what we’re all about now,” Tangela said. “We’re trying to do the same for others by showing our support.”

On the Aug. 27 anniversary of his daughter’s death, Marcus said he learned about a blood drive at Regions Bank in Natchez for yet another teen in Brookhaven who is fighting cancer.

Madeline King, 15, had been scheduled for thyroid surgery at Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital in Jackson Aug. 27 — the same day Natchez hosted a blood drive to help cover the cost of transfusions she would need during the surgery, Book said.

Book said she saw Marcus sit down quietly in the blood bus with two of his coworkers and asked him if she could take his picture.

“I told him ‘The family would like to see pictures of the people who donated to help Madeline,’” Book said. In the conversation that followed, Book said Marcus told her why he was there, saying, “I’m just a daddy whose daughter has died trying to help another daddy whose daughter is in the same hospital.”

When Book posted Marcus’ picture and story on social media the post received more than 660 reactions and had been shared more than 150 times as of Friday.

Soon after, Crystal Springs High School hosted two blood drives in honor of Markia, King and other teens fighting cancer, Book said. Brookhaven High School also hosted a similar blood drive Thursday and plans another on Sept. 20 to catch the overflow of teens and adults who wanted to donate, Book said.

“I just can’t get over the hundreds of people who’ve responded to it. … It’s unbelievable,” Book said. “It puts Mississippi in such a great light to see so many people loving one another — people of different ages, races and backgrounds. … Teenagers who have never donated before are donating because of these two girls. I see things happen every day, but nothing of this magnitude.”

Tangela said she saw videos posted of students holding pictures of her daughter and was touched.

“It’s heartwarming that so many people care even though they didn’t know her,” she said. “It’s nice that her memory is not forgotten — that people care and continue the fight for others.”

Book said NHS also declared they would break the record for blood donations Tuesday in honor of Markia.

“Only 4% of people donate blood, and every two seconds someone needs blood,” Book said. “That’s a horrible statistic. These teenagers are making a difference. … I can’t wait to see what will happen Tuesday. … I want to see the record broken if that is what they’re going for.

“We supply blood to every hospital in the state for free. If someone needs blood like these children, we have blood drives for them and all of the blood goes to them. If it’s not their blood type, they get a credit and don’t have to pay for the rest of the blood used. … I’m in awe of the goodness in people’s hearts.”

Marcus said he never expected such a wide response to him giving blood two weeks ago. He said he thought of his daughter, who had many blood transfusions, a leg amputation, two lung surgeries and all of the other children just like her.

“I was thinking of my daughter and all of the other kids fighting this deadly disease,” Marcus said. “… Anybody dealing with cancer has to deal with blood transfusions too because chemo kills blood cells. I knew it’s something that all kids at Batson (hospital) have to deal with. It’s something that I will continue to do from this day. … If my daughter hadn’t had cancer, I never would have understood how much a blood donation could mean to someone.”