Charlotte Richter/Staff Writer
A blood drive to celebrate the life of a 7-year-old liver transplant recipient, her donor and the community’s contributions is March 4 and 5 in Lansing, Kan.
Ella’s Sixth-Annual Blood Drive to honor 7-year-old Ella Gorgoglione is noon to 6 p.m. March 4 and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 5 at Lansing Community Center in Lansing, Kan. The blood drive is being conducted by the Community Blood Center and hosted by the city of Lansing and the Lansing Kiwanis and Lions clubs.
Capt. Mark Gorgoglione, Command and General Staff Officer Course student, and his wife Chelsey Gorgoglione learned their daughter Ella had liver disease when she was 3 weeks old. By the time Ella was 3 months old, the liver disease had progressed to end-stage liver disease, and by 9 months old Ella was receiving around-the-clock care at home.
Following a compassionate reassignment from Fort Riley, Kan., to Fort Lewis, Wash., and after weeks of testing and vaccinations, Ella was added to the transplant list.
Ella had been on the transplant list for eight days when they received the call with an organ offer Christmas night.
Chelsey said Ella’s transplant surgery was 14 hours long and required about 16 units of blood for her to survive the operation.
“It’s something we can celebrate with her and celebrate the individuality of it and how she is special in a little bit of a different way,” Mark said.
The Gorgogliones agree the process has been very difficult, especially in the beginning as a new and growing military family.
“Going through that process with Ella helped put a fire inside both of us about ways that we could give back and ways that we reach people in the community. It’s such a unique experience,” Mark said. “We talk to (our daughters) about it all the time, about how many things have to go right when you have little kids.”
Chelsey said the family wrote to the donor’s family for five years following the surgery to say thank you but did not receive a response.
She said she and Mark also sought sustainable ways to give back to the community and decided hosting annual blood drives could support other patients and promote organ donation.
Mark said the blood drives also celebrate the donor family and their child’s life.
“I think it’s important to celebrate that and let people know how thankful we are that people do donate organs because without it, we’d be a household of four (not five),” Mark said.
The Gorgogliones plan to continue hosting annual blood drives in the community.
Chelsey Smith, Community Blood Center outreach and communications coordinator, said that prior to the pandemic, 70 percent of the blood supply came from blood drives like the one being conducted in Ella’s honor.
“It came from community blood drives, where we’re going into the community and we’re inviting donors to come to a place that’s familiar to them,” Smith said. “This (drive) is extra special because (community members) get to donate in honor of an actual patient that has received a blood transfusion.
“This little girl is alive today because of blood and organ donors, and that is that is an incredible reason to come in and donate blood.”