Mother continues blood drive and bone marrow donations following son’s death, her own cancer diagnosis

CHICAGO — When it comes to doing what we can do, we can usually point to reason.

For Andrea Whitsett, her reasons for a blood drive and bone marrow screening outside of her home on Chicago’s Far South Side extend well beyond what one might expect.

“This is a different walk. I don’t wish this pain on nobody,” Whitsett said.

Whitsett’s journey with organizing blood drives began in 2009, when her 17-year-old son told her he began to not feel well.

“Within one hour, we were told that Patrick has leukemia, just like that,” Whitsett said.

Patrick’s fight lasted several years, and in 2013, the doctors gave him the good news of remission.

Two years later, Patrick’s doctors told him his cancer was back. Aggressive chemotherapy drained Patrick’s energy, and he died from the cancer in December 2015.

For 10 years, Whitsett has worked to educate and to recruit more donors, both blood and bone marrow donors from the Black community, hoping to save more lives in Patrick’s name.

“This is what I needed to do for my baby. African Americans can only give to other African Americans, we’re not educated about this. That’s why I do this,” Whitsett said.

Not once ever thinking that it would also be in her name, when she received the same diagnosis earlier this year.

Each pint of blood collected works to save three people’s lives.

“It’s about having a compatible blood product for the patient in need. That’s why we’re here, bringing awareness,” Lawrence Smith of Versity said.

For Whitsett, it is a tribute to her beloved son.

“I’m not going to let him down. I’m going to see my baby again, and all I want is for him to say ‘Mommy, you did a good job,” Whitsett said.

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