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Memorial blood drive to honor teen
Former West Hall baseball players mother partners with American Red Cross
Brian Ernst loved pitching for the West Hall High School baseball team before he was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma.

Brian Ernst Memorial Blood Drive
What: Blood drive to raise awareness about childhood cancer
Where: American Red Cross, 311 Jesse Jewell Parkway
When: Noon to 7 p.m. today-Wednesday; 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday
More info: 770-532-8453

Just a few years back, Brian Ernst was a regular teenager growing up in Oakwood.

He attended West Hall High School and loved playing baseball. He was not concerned with blood and platelets.

Ernst could not imagine he would find himself relying on blood and platelet donations to keep breathing.

In 2008, Ernst was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of cancer. At age 19, Ernst lost his battle with the aggressive disease.

“There were nights that we would have to stay overnight in the hospital waiting on blood and platelets while he stayed on oxygen,” said Donna Ernst, Brian’s mother.

“Sometimes that blood and platelets had to come from another state.”

Since she discovered cancer patients are the No. 1 group that has an immediate need for blood, Ernst decided to partner with the American Red Cross to organize the Brian Ernst Memorial Blood Drive.

The drive will be at the American Red Cross on Jesse Jewell Parkway today through Wednesday from noon to 7 p.m., Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“We’re doing it in memory of my son, who asked me before he passed away to do anything that I could do to help children with cancer,” Ernst said.

“He inspired and touched many lives while he was going through his illness.”

She said she hopes to raise awareness during September, which is childhood cancer awareness month, that there is something people can do to help patients.

“This will help a lot of people,” she said. “You can do something as simple as giving blood.”

Ernst said she would like to urge people to give constantly, since the need for blood is constant.

“Don’t stop,” she said. “Don’t just do it the one time, but continue to do it on a regular basis.”

Platelet donations are rare, since the process cannot be done on a regular blood drive, but Ernst said she still encourages people to give platelets. She said the platelets regenerate quickly.

“The platelets are replenished in your body within 48 to 72 hours to where they were before you gave,” she said.

According to the Make Some Noise Foundation, an organization dedicated to childhood cancer research, a child is diagnosed with cancer every 40 minutes.

Research also shows one in every three children diagnosed at a young age will die from cancer treatments alone.

Ernst said she is grateful to Linda Rounds with the Red Cross for helping her organize the drive.

Rounds said she was eager to help Ernst with her request because she knows how high demand is for blood donations.

“We do have occasional shortages,” Rounds said. “Donations are down. Usage is up.”

The decrease in donations in the state has made it difficult for patients to receive much-needed transfusions, Rounds said.

“In Georgia, we have approximately less than 3 percent of the eligible population donating,” she said.

She also said platelets are just as important to donate.

“Platelets are (there) to control bleeding in a patient, and sometimes they’re simply not available,” she said.

Ernst said in order to spread awareness, she plans to continue the blood drive each year.

She also invites people to donate throughout the month and to designate their donation in memory of Brian Ernst.

“There truly is a need, and I would be so thankful and grateful on behalf of my son and my family to help many other patients and their families.”

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