Mary Martiniello and her husband Gino fought for 12 long years to fall pregnant.
After rounds and rounds of IVF, and receiving a donor egg, they found out they were having twin boys.
But as their birth date approached, they discovered one of the boys was going to need help almost as soon as he was born.
“At 20 weeks we found out Peter had a congenital heart defect, called Tetralogy of Fallot, and he had a severe version of it,” Mary said.
The boys were born at 31 weeks and five days, Charlie weighing 1.8 kg and Peter 1.4 kg.
Charlie also needed extra help.
“He needed a blood transfusion at day two due to his haemophilia, which we didn’t know at that point. He was quite anaemic,” Mary said.
“At 10 days Peter had his first open heart surgery.”
Both boys, now aged nine, wouldn’t be here today without the generosity of blood and plasma donors.
Peter is flourishing, but will need more heart surgeries as he grows.
Charlie has been in and out of hospital all his life.
“We’ve been lucky enough that he hasn’t needed transfusions [since he was born] because thanks to people donating plasma, they’ve been able to create ‘factor’ that helps [his blood clot],” Mary said.
“He’s on a synthetic factor which was developed utilising plasma … they taught me how to infuse him every second day.”
Charlie now receives an injection of factor once a week.
After giving blood for the first time, Mary received a message saying her donation had been sent to Westmead Hospital where her boys were born.
Now she’s starting to donate plasma to add to the blood bank.
“Both the kids are getting plasma in some form or another, and I think it’s the least I can do,” Mary said.
“Somebody’s given plasma and has helped both of my kids, so why not do the same for somebody else?”
Mary encouraged anyone thinking about donating blood or plasma to step forward, as every little bit helps.
“It’s a blessing – 40 years ago Peter potentially wouldn’t have survived his birth. But thanks to science and people donating, it’s all worked out,” she said.
“To know I have my children thanks to donors, I want to thank anyone who has ever done it because they have helped.”
Australian Red Cross Lifeblood has flagged a desperate need for more donors this Christmas season.
Canberra needs an extra 100 donors a day. To help make this happen, the Garran Donor Centre will open on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day for the first time.
Spokesperson Sally Gavin said donations decreased as people went away for the holidays, but demand for blood never stopped.
“With the extra public holidays, we see a higher demand for blood products,” she said.
“We’ve had fewer donations, demand has also increased because people delayed surgeries during COVID. But of course people are back on the roads and trying to enjoy life.”
People with “O” and “A” blood groups – types most in demand – have been particularly urged to make an appointment.
Donors are encouraged to start preparing for their appointment the day before, and you need to be symptom-free for seven days if you’ve recently had COVID.
“Make sure you’ve eaten something substantial in the three hours prior to donating,” Sally said. “And it’s all about hydration, start hydrating the day before and within three hours of your donation, drink another litre of water.”
Charlie and Peter expressed their gratitude to those who have donated to help them live happy lives.
“It’s great that people keep giving me blood, it’s good,” Peter said.
“It’s just amazing, because the world is a wonderful place and when people donate it helps lives, and when it helps lives, people don’t die,” Charlie added.
“I hate my operations … but I feel a lot better knowing someone’s helped.”
The Garran Donor Centre will open 25 December, 7 am – 11 am, and New Year’s Day, 10 am – 2 pm. The mobile donation bus will be in Gungahlin over the Christmas to New Year period. To book an appointment call 13 14 95, head online or download the Donate Blood app.