Watch CBS News

Santa Rosa mom advocates for blood donations years after transfusion saved her baby

North Bay mom advocates for blood donors to step up
North Bay mom advocates for blood donors to step up 02:36

SANTA ROSA (KPIX) - A blood transfusion played a critical role in saving the life of an eight-week baby in need of emergency surgery. Almost five years later, the baby's mother wants to encourage as many people as she can to donate blood and have a similar impact in someone else's life. 

"The whole universe, everything that happened, we feel so incredibly lucky," said Jordan Woodside. "We feel lucky that he was given somebody's blood, whose, I have no idea."

Her son Rylan was not feeling well when the family started the drive to the South Bay for a wedding in 2018. He threw up as they were loading him into the car, he had a green bile in his vomit. It was a warning sign for the malrotation in his body. Their son would need surgery to untwist his intestine. While on the way to the wedding, Woodside noticed her son was whimpering a lot and never fell asleep. Once they got to the wedding, her mother-in-law said to make a call and describe the symptoms. 

"The advice nurse chatted with the doctor for a few seconds and then got back on the phone and said, 'We're going to need you to go to the nearest emergency room,'" she remembers hearing on the other end of the call. 

The Woodside family was familiar with the area since they used to live in the South Bay and knew the nearby emergency room where their older daughter had also received care. In order to have a successful surgery, he would need a blood transfusion to help stabilize him before the procedure. 

"He was so dehydrated, he was not crying, he was making no movements, his eyes were barely open."

Surgeries on babies often require special blood and it's an ongoing concern to make sure they have enough in supply at all times. This particular surgery called a LADDS procedure gets the intestine to sit a different way. 

"It was a Sunday morning, I remember this, I was out walking the dog," said Dr. Kerry Sullivan, a pediatric surgeon at Kaiser Permanente. 

Dr. Sullivan says she does this surgery about six times a year, working to get more people aware of the symptoms that can save a baby's life. She says they are always educating pediatricians and others who care for children to look for that green-colored vomit the Woodsides saw the day their son would get this procedure. A malrotation is one of the most life-threatening conditions for a baby at that age. 

"In many of the operations I do, blood is crucial to getting someone through the operation safely."

It was an eye-opening experience for the family on many levels, including the need to donate blood. Staff at Vitalant say while the vast majority of individuals are able to donate blood, only about five percent go through the process. Blood that can be used in unanticipated circumstances like Woodside's son as well as other planned procedures and treatments like chemotherapy. January is National Blood Donor Month, which is why the Woodsides continue to share their story years after their son had his blood transfusion. 

"It's the least we can do now to give back," Woodside said. "Every single day, at some point in the day, I'm overwhelmed with gratitude and joy that they are alive."

This month her son will turn five years old, and he has enjoyed a healthy childhood ever since, recovering quickly from the surgery. To celebrate his first birthday, they hosted a mobile blood bank with family and friends participating during the celebration. 

"We just wanted to make an impact in a positive way, in honor of his life."

Before learning about the importance from her son's procedure, Woodside says she had never given blood in her adult life. She remembers donating once in high school. Now she and her family give as often as they can. 

"It's such a giant thing you can do that takes very little time and very little effort and it's free to you," she said. "It's not just sitting in a warehouse, like it's actually getting used and someone really needs it."

Rylan serves as a daily reminder about the value of donating blood and Woodside never takes for granted how someone else's act of kindness saved his life and many more can have a similar impact on others. 

"I think about it every day, I feel like every day at some point in the day, I feel lucky that both my kids are alive," she said. "It's not lost on me that things could have gone completely differently."

CBS News Bay Area is backing community blood drives taking place on Wednesday, January 18 and Thursday, January 19

Wednesday, January 18
San Rafael - Marin Bible Church Gym, 10 Sequoia Road, 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Emeryville - Bay Street Shopping Center (empty available storefront) 12:00 PM - 5:00 PM
San Francisco - new Vitalant donation center at 555 Buckingham near Stonestown Galleria

Thursday, January 19
Redwood City - Sequoia YMCA, 11:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Dublin, Hacienda Crossings Shopping Center, 11:00 AM - 4:00 PM
San Francisco - new Vitalant donation center at 555 Buckingham near Stonestown Galleria

More information can be found by visiting

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.