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Blood donors key to Westman baby's survival

Kristen Phillips, her husband Garrett and their 18-month-old daughter Leah meet Bailey, who was born with congenital cytomegalovirus and requires blood transfusions every three days. Now three months old, Bailey is still in hospital in Winnipeg.

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Kristen Phillips, her husband Garrett and their 18-month-old daughter Leah meet Bailey, who was born with congenital cytomegalovirus and requires blood transfusions every three days. Now three months old, Bailey is still in hospital in Winnipeg. (SUBMITTED)

Born on Aug. 23, Bailey Phillips still hasn’t left the confines of a Winnipeg hospital.

While pregnant with Bailey, Roseland’s Kristen Phillips contracted a congenital cytomegalovirus (CMV), a common and usually symptomless illness, but it can cause serious health problems in babies infected before birth.

As a result of the virus, Bailey’s first day of life was spent whisked away from her mother and airlifted to St. Boniface General Hospital where she went through myriad of tests.

Today, the three-month-old baby is still in hospital, now at Health Science Centre in Winnipeg, in an isolation room in the oncology ward with her mom where she receives a blood transfusion once every three days.

Friday marked her 40th blood transfusion and the next one will likely be today.

The virus has wreaked havoc on her bone marrow and the antiviral medication, which she’ll be on for another three months also works against her.

Phillips and doctors hoped her bone marrow would have started to recover by now, but it hasn’t.

"They have never seen this take so long to show any kind of recovery," Phillips said in an interview with the Sun via Skype from the isolated hospital room.

"Bailey has shown no signs of recovery at all," she said. "We’re at a standstill for the next three months."

She’ll need transfusions for the next six months, but there’s a chance it could become a lifelong requisite.

Because blood donations tend to dry up during the busy holiday season, this week, Canadian Blood Services launched its annual Holiday Miracle campaign and is counting on Canadians to help meet patient need by collecting 75,000 blood donations nationally — including more than 5,700 donations in Manitoba.

"It sounds like a lot, but that’s the rate of demand," said CBS spokesperson Adrienne Silver.

"We really need new donors to come or workplaces to rally around patients and make sure all of the appointments are full."

Phillips always knew how important it was to give blood but it wasn’t until she saw her daughter’s life hang in the balance did the reality set in how crucial blood donations are.

If Bailey doesn’t get blood transfusions every three days, she could die.

And for Phillips, a sense of panic often sets in when it looks like a matching platelet donation might not come.

Platelets taken from blood donations are only good for five days and one platelet transfusion comes from five separate donors.

"She needs five people every three days to be donating," Phillips said.

Phillips, well known in Brandon, said the last three months of isolation has been hard, but work has started to move Bailey to the Brandon Regional Health Centre to be closer to home.

"I would love to be home for Christmas," she said. "But Bailey needs to be here and if Christmas is in here, then that’s fine ... Christmas is about family and as long as the four of us can be together, that’s all that matters."

The decorated curler, agronomy specialist for the Canola Council of Canada and a main organizer for Ag Days has found the time to keep up with some of her duties, but the separation from her family — her husband Garrett and 18-month-old daughter Leah — has taken its toll.

"It’s unbelievable how much (Leah has) changed and every time she comes in, she knows new things and she’s grown taller," she said. "I feel like I’ve missed out."

She has only been back home twice since Bailey’s birth.

"It’s what you do when you’re a mom. You drop everything for your kids," she said. "When you become a mom, everything stops for your child."

Residents in Brandon and the surrounding area have shown immense support for the Phillips family and several local businesses have put their weight behind the CBS campaign to help Bailey.

A YouTube video of Bailey’s story was posted last week and already it has received more than 1,800 views.

"Everyone has been so extremely helpful to us," she said.

"It’s incredible how small but big Brandon is."

Canadian Blood Services has tweaked its hours to compete with busy holiday schedules. The Town Centre clinic will be open from 11:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. on Wednesdays, 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 14.

To donate, call 1-888-2donate (1-888-236-283) or go online at blood.ca to book an appointment.

» gbruce@brandonsun.com

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition December 9, 2013

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Born on Aug. 23, Bailey Phillips still hasn’t left the confines of a Winnipeg hospital.

While pregnant with Bailey, Roseland’s Kristen Phillips contracted a congenital cytomegalovirus (CMV), a common and usually symptomless illness, but it can cause serious health problems in babies infected before birth.

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Born on Aug. 23, Bailey Phillips still hasn’t left the confines of a Winnipeg hospital.

While pregnant with Bailey, Roseland’s Kristen Phillips contracted a congenital cytomegalovirus (CMV), a common and usually symptomless illness, but it can cause serious health problems in babies infected before birth.

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