EATON — Rebirth can follow loss, and the giving and taking of blood donations serves as a perfect testimony. That continued to be the inspiration behind the fourth annual Vincent Jones Memorial Blood Drive held June 22 at Eaton First Church of God.
Vincent Jones was a young father who lost his battle with leukemia on June 24, 2016, just 13 days after the birth of his son Jeremiah. His widow Mindy Sue Jones organized the memorial blood drive to honor blood donors for helping Vincent live long enough to meet his new son.
Vincent was too weak to see his son’s birth, but Mindy and Jeremiah were allowed a visit to ICU. “Jeremiah was his parting gift to me,” Mindy said, “and those 10 minutes were a parting gift to Vincent.”
The blood drive in Vincent’s memory has grown faster than Jeremiah, now age three, and older brother Gabriel. Saturday totaled 82 donors for 122 percent of collection goal. The four blood drives have totaled 271 donors, including 39 first-time donors and 230 blood donations.
Mindy has often called the spirit of giving “a ripple effect” and the circles widen each year. She coordinates a January Community Blood Center blood drive at Eaton First Church of God and is helping reestablish the Sept. 14 blood drive at West Alexandria EMS. “We’re bringing it back,” she said. “It’s the first since 2015.”
Mindy and Vincent were both young EMT workers when they met, introduced by Vincent’s brother Craig Jones, an Eaton Police officer.
“This is my sleeping time,” Craig said after patrolling his overnight shift and then donating whole blood Saturday morning at the memorial blood drive. “This is the only time this year I didn’t do apheresis (platelets or plasma).”
Craig began donating when Vincent was undergoing treatment. He learned that platelets and plasma donations are vital for treating patients with leukemia and other forms of cancer, and that his rare AB blood type was ideal.
“With my blood type, I’m the universal donor for platelets and plasma,” said Craig, who now makes monthly platelet or plasma donations.
Mindy and Craig hope to see platelet and plasma donations added to the Vincent Jones Memorial Blood Drive next year.
“For the people who need platelets and plasma, it’s so important,” said Mindy. “Vincent used so many platelets, it was the first thing he needed. He needed red cells when his hemoglobin dropped and plasma for the clotting factor. Fifty units or more in those nine weeks.”
Family and friends at the blood drive wore orange “Vincent Strong” t-shirts and wrist bands, the color for leukemia awareness. A new member of the family, dressed in orange and donating at the blood drive, was Matthew Vannatter, Mindy’s new husband. They were married in March.
Mindy’s circle of friends echoed their support. “They were posting on social media, ‘We’ve been praying for this man!’” said Mindy.
On the June 24 anniversary of losing Vincent she wrote, “Life still has many blessings through the storms. So, I will honor you by living, living life to the fullest!”