Lauren Reagan promotes blood donation, noting how transfusions extended her son’s life by months
Declan Reagan called them blood parties.
Lauren Reagan laughs at the memory, recalling how her son looked forward to going to blood drives, bringing snacks to donors.
“He actually enjoyed watching other people get a needle’s poke,” Lauren said.
After all, Declan, in his short life, became an expert on the receiving end of a needle’s point.
“We would host blood drives to raise awareness for the need for blood and just how much blood he was consuming, especially when he was in hospice care toward the end of his life,” Lauren said.
It has been nearly three years since Declan died after a two-year battle with cancer.
Since then, Lauren has changed her career, working with the same experts who helped her son live a fulfilling life in that very short time.
Lauren Reagan is a business development representative at Bloodworks Northwest, “a non-profit organization harnessing donor gifts to provide a safe, lifesaving blood supply to 95 percent of hospitals in the Pacific Northwest,” according to its website.
An easier mission to remember:
“Blood is life,” Lauren Reagan says.
She knows firsthand.
In the first week of January 2018, Declan was given weeks to live. He died on May 25.
And he made the most of those months.
He slept in a treehouse.
He had cupcakes for breakfast.
He and his twin brother Adrian were signed to a professional basketball team.
The family went to Hawaii, to visit the filming location for a blockbuster movie.
Oh, and that movie? The family got to see it before the world premiere, courtesy of an invitation from actor Chris Pratt, who sent Declan and Adrian a video message.
“He was originally given two weeks to live when they sent us home in January,” Lauren Reagan said. “He ended up living five months. He didn’t have any additional treatments. It was solely just blood donation. That gave us that additional time where we did everything under the sun. We had tons of fun with him. We have all those precious memories.
“Without the blood donation, I wouldn’t have had those five months.”
The two-year battle and particularly those last five months brought about big changes in Lauren, as well.
“After he passed away, I went from staying with him, being his full-time caregiver, to going back (to work),” said Lauren, who was in the hospitality industry, working in hotels.
She had always enjoyed her job, and still did, but something was different.
“You go through this huge life event, and it just changes your perspective,” she said.
The pandemic led to her being furloughed from her job. A scary time, but also a chance to reevaluate.
“I started thinking, ‘OK, what do I want to do?’”
She needed a change.
“I started thinking about different organizations I had worked with while Declan was sick,” she said. “Bloodworks was one of them.”
In fact, a few of the technicians at Bloodworks had become so close to the Reagan family that they attended Declan’s memorial service.
“So years later, I’m coming back on my first day of work, and I see those familiar faces,” Lauren said. “It was just so exciting to be back.”
Declan’s story is now Lauren’s story to share.
It is a job. And it is a passion.
She reaches out to companies from Longview to Wilsonville, asking them to promote blood drives to employees. She educates the community on the importance of hospitals having a full stock of blood supplies.
She notes that many people think blood is needed for trauma, car accident victims, for example. Of course, those patients need blood, but there are so many others who need transfusions on the regular, for a myriad of reasons.
By the end of Declan’s life, his body was no longer producing blood cells. Only cancer cells.
“Through blood donation, that gives your body life,” Lauren said.
It can save a life. Or extend a life.
“If I can give a mom another week with her child, then it’s worth all the blood, sweat, and tears,” Lauren said.
In her family’s case, it was five more months.
It was January when the Reagans were told there was not much more to be done. Lauren made the call to leave the hospital.
“We’re going to go home,” she said. “We’re going to go be us.”
By then Declan had seen the trailer for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. He watched the trailer over and over again. The movie, though, was not going to come out until June.
“Oh my God, he’s not going to be able to see this movie,” Lauren said. “That was the first thing that came to my mind.”
The family had a friend of a friend of a friend, though, and phone calls were made to Hollywood.
In the meantime, Declan kept receiving transfusions. He slept in a tree house. The family vacationed in Hawaii, to see where the movie was filmed. Yes, they had to take time on their trip to get transfusions, but then Declan was good to go for a few more days of fun in paradise.
Back home, Declan and Adrian were signed to basketball contracts by the Harlem Wizards, a touring team that visits communities and raises funds.
The weeks turned into months. Declan still talked about the movie.
Actor Chris Pratt sent a video message. Producers sent a box of toys and posters.
And in May, the family got a call. Don’t tell anyone, the Reagans were told, but a local movie theater had been rented. There would be security present, too. For their eyes only.
The Reagans watched the new Jurassic World movie a month before its premiere.
“This is it. This is the last thing I could think of that he ever wanted,” Lauren said.
Declan and Adrian both gave the movie thumb’s up. Lauren said movies have always been special to the family, and now they will always have this special movie moment.
Again, thanks to blood donations.
Lauren and Adrian, who just celebrated his ninth birthday, are also planning a return trip to Hawaii.
“Adrian still talks about his brother. He still has all those memories attached to things that he did with his brother,” Lauren said. “We’re going to go and make new memories, but be at a place where he remembers how much fun he and his brother had when we were there.”
In total, Declan used 76 red blood transfusions and 108 platelet donations, his mother said.
“I’m eternally grateful to everyone who donated at Bloodworks Northwest during Declan’s time and to those who still do,” Lauren said.
Lauren also shared her story in a Bloodworks 101 podcast, which can be heard here: “Coming Home from Cancerland.”
Declan passed away on May 25, 2018 at the age of 6, just a couple weeks after watching Jurassic World.
Three years later, Lauren Reagan has a tattoo on the inside of her left arm. There is a momma dinosaur and two babies. She focuses on the tattoo every time she gives blood, every 56 days.
She smiles when she thinks of Declan, at those “blood parties” and how a 6-year-old boy would hold the hand of an adult who was a little afraid of a needle. Declan would always assure the adult that it was going to be alright.
Bloodworks also sends an email to each donor, detailing which hospital the pint has been delivered to after each donation.
“Every pint has a story,” Lauren Reagan said.
For more information on blood donation, go to: https://www.bloodworksnw.org/donate