Tony Heap, a donor relations consultant at the Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center, has made a career out of asking others to donate blood.
But his view changed recently when his granddaughter was born with a condition called congenital diaphragmatic hernia. To keep her alive, she needed a machine, surgery and blood components from grandpa's workplace.
"All of sudden it hit home," he said. "Here I am asking people to give blood and for the first time, someone I loved was on the receiving end."
JoAnn Hipp, 36, and Drew Heap, 38, of Belleville's west end, were married in October. They welcomed their daughter, Athena Grace Heap, July 9 at Mercy Hospital in St. Louis.
She weighed 7 pounds, 15 ounces, and was 21 inches long. Shortly after birth, doctors and nurses became concerned with her ashy color. They discovered her condition and transferred her to SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center.
She spent 28 days there where she received blood products.
Her health has improved.
"She is home and doing well and she really doesn't have any restrictions," Hipp said. "She does have some diminished lung capacity on her right side, so we're praying for lung growth."
Drew Heap, who suffered from asthma as a child and has multiple sclerosis, said he was worried when his daughter was diagnosed with health issues. "I worried that it's somehow my fault," he said. "It's pretty crazy."
Drew Heap is a regular platelet donor, as is his father.
"It's easy for me: I'm disabled, so I can't work, so I can give two hours to give platelets," Drew Heap said. "It's easy to give, but it's time consuming. If you find yourself having time, it's not hard to do.
"You hear all the time that blood save lives," he continued. "But when it's your daughter, you think, it does save lives."
When JoAnn Hipp watched Athena received her blood transfusion, she noted, "That could be Grandpa's or Dad's blood plasma getting to her."
To help pay back for all the blood Athena received, a blood drive will be held from 2-7 p.m. Friday at Fischer's Restaurant, 2100 W. Main St. in Belleville.
Walk-ins will be welcome at the blood drive. However, if you'd like to schedule an appointment, call 800-747-5401 or visit www.bloodcenterIMPACT.org.
Contact reporter Maria Hasenstab at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2460.