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Blood donations help save 2-year-old 'Barrett the Brave'

Thankful for blood donors who are helping a boy known as "Barrett the Brave," a family is now paying it forward.

MINNEAPOLIS — The story of "Barrett the Brave" begins with adventures on playgrounds.

"He's a mover and a shaker, very active," Barrett's mom Abby Gregory said. "He loves anything that goes. Cars. Trucks."

This past spring, an alarming discovery put his active lifestyle on pause.

"We were brushing his teeth," Gregory said. "His dad and I felt a small lump in his right cheek."

Gregory says a University of Minnesota specialist diagnosed Barrett with rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare and serious cancer, after two separate health facilities weren't able to figure out what was wrong.

"He was very scared at first," Gregory said of her son. "Very clingy, understandably."

Treatment began with chemotherapy. For 28 days in a row this fall, Barrett received radiation treatments at Mayo Clinic.

"Because it was on his face, it was really painful," Gregory said.

Now, 2-and-a-half years old, chemotherapy has resumed at M Health Fairview Masonic Children’s Hospital. Sessions are expected to finish by Barrett's third birthday in June 2022.

"When you're in chemo, you lose a lot of your white blood cells," Gregory said. "He just feels really run down when that happens."

But there is something bringing back Barrett the Brave's spark: Blood transfusions. 

He's had 10 so far, in addition to two platelet transfusions.

 "Oh, it -- it is saving his life -- it's all part of it, but it is the one thing that instantly makes him feel better," Gregory said. "We see his energy return, his color return. He goes from being just this flat thing within hours being ready to play."

To give more kids that life-saving boost, the Gregory family is hosting a blood donation drive. Almost 100 participants are enrolled to roll up their sleeves for 8-10 minutes and each give around a pint of blood.

"It has a donor number," Gregory said.  "I just always looked at that and I try to like say, 'Thank you' to that person that I don't know because they're helping my baby. You know, that's amazing. It's just really been such a gift to our family that we're hoping we can give that gift to some others, too."

Both the American Red Cross and Memorial Blood Centers report there is an urgent need for blood donations.

While registration for the Gregory family's blood drive is now closed, there are a number of blood drives happening around the metro.

For information about how to donate blood and/or platelets, visit the American Red Cross website. Those who aren't able to donate in that way are encouraged to consider a financial contribution with the American Red Cross.

The Gregory family is also accepting donations to help cover the cost of medical bills.