Boy’s survival illustrates need for blood drive

When Davis De Clerque was born at just 23 weeks and five days, he weighed about a pound and a half.

Boy’s survival illustrates need for blood drive click to enlarge Julia and Davis De Clerque

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Called a micro preemie, he had so many health problems that his prognosis was dire. “There were some tenuous moments in those first few days of life,” said his mother, Julia De Clerque, Ph.D., of the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “We nearly lost him on Mother’s Day.”

Davis received 17 blood transfusions in his first 109 days of life, spent in the neo-natal intensive care unit at UNC Hospitals. Now, Julia De Clerque said, he’s 10 years old and doing well in school, albeit with a type of autism prevalent among children born prematurely.

“A lot of things saved his life,” she said. “But none of them would have been possible – he wouldn’t have lived – if he hadn’t received blood.”

Some, but not all of it, was hers. “They allowed me to donate my blood even though I had had a C section,” De Clerque said. “I have a picture of him getting my blood the day before we went home. We called it one for the road.”

The rest, which was ready and waiting when they needed it, came from donors like those expected at the 22nd annual Carolina Blood Drive, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. June 8 in the Dean E. Smith Center at UNC.

The drive goal is to collect more than the 1,060-unit record set at the Appalachian State University drive in 2008 and take back UNC’s title as the one of the largest single-site, single-day drives on the East Coast. The Carolina Blood Drive has collected 966 and 976, respectively, in the last two years.

“Beating Appalachian is not our only goal,” said Katrina Coble, chair of the Carolina Blood Drive committee. “We hope to help patients across our region who need blood because of accidents, cancer or other illnesses. One unit of blood can impact as many as three lives.”

Community residents are welcome to participate; parking around the Smith Center will be free. For more information, and to sign up to donate or volunteer, visit

Donors will have an extra treat this year, with a slew of local celebrities scheduled to speak to the group and/or wander the floor thanking donors individually. Expected around midday are:

  • Chancellor Holden Thorp and his wife, Patti
  • Chancellor Emeritus Paul Hardin, who started the drive 22 years ago, and his wife, Barbara
  • Carolina Head Football Coach Butch Davis and his wife, Tammy
  • Dr. Bill Roper, dean of the School of Medicine and CEO of UNC Health Care
  • UNC and NBA basketball alumnus and radio personality Eric Montross and his wife, Laura
  • UNC soccer alumnus and National Soccer Hall of Famer Carla Overbeck and her husband, Greg

The Voice of the Tar Heels, radio sports announcer Woody Durham, is expected in the early afternoon with his wife, Jean. UNC football players in their jerseys and Rameses, the Tar Heel mascot, are scheduled to thank donors at various times during the day.

According to Julia De Clerque, they deserve all the thanks they can get. “It’s really important to have that bank of blood that has been screened and is available,” she said. “You never know when you’re going to need it. That’s why I donate blood regularly.”

She will be among donors at the Carolina Blood Drive.

Last February, De Clerque said, Davis had to do a report for school on Black History Month. He chose the topic: Dr. Charles Richard Drew, (1904-1950), the American doctor and surgeon who first conceived the idea of blood banks. Davis included a photo of himself receiving a transfusion and wrote, “This man saved my life.”

For more information, see

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