EATON, Ohio – Ten-week old Jeremiah Jones slept quietly in his baby carrier Saturday morning, Aug. 20 while his mother Mindy Jones greeted every donor at the Eaton First Church of God blood drive. If they didn’t know about the life of Vincent Jones before they came, they left with a new place in their hearts for a young dad whose son’s birth was a parting gift.
Saturday’s blood drive was dedicated to Vincent, who died June 24 after a rapid, nine-week battle with leukemia. Jeremiah was born just days earlier on June 11. “My water broke in Vincent’s hospital room,” said Mindy. “Luckily, the baby was two weeks early.”
When Jeremiah was born, Vincent was too weak to sit in a chair. “He got to lift him up and kissed him a few times,” said Mindy. “His spirit was willing, but his body couldn’t do much more.”
She credits blood transfusions for helping Vincent live long enough to see his son. “He was given well over 50 blood products or more, I lost count,” she said. “It’s because of people who cared enough to go out of their way. With every transfusion I prayed for the donors, for what they were giving him.”
Blood donation has become part of Vincent’s legacy. Saturday’s blood drive had 39 registrations and 32 donations for 160 percent of the collection goal.
Vincent’s fight against blood cancer inspired donors to support the Eaton Church of the Brethren blood drive on May 26. “We thought he would make it,” said Mindy. “But he started going downhill in June.”
Mindy spent time with donors at the First Church of God blood drive telling Vincent’s story. She said he was just 32 year old with a new job, a pregnant wife and their three-year-old son Gabriel when the ordeal began with some unexplained bruising. The drove to the hospital holding hands, and to raise her spirits Vincent joked, “At least I will get to go bald like I always wanted!”
“It was a long, nine-week journey, more emotionally overwhelming than I can describe,” she said.
SUPPORT FROM OLD FRIENDS
“I’ve never given blood before, I’m a first-time donor,” said Ken McWilliams. Ken and his wife Annette came from Gratis to support the blood drive to honor the young couple they knew as close friends.
Ken met Mindy when she took an EMT training class he helped teach. When she joined the Gratis rescue squad, she was required to spend weekend nights on call. “We told her there was no way she was going to stay at the squad house by herself,” said Annette. “You’re staying with us.”
Mindy started dating Vincent, and he insisted on accompanying her on any emergency call. “Just bring him over too,” said Annette. They were soon married and “camping out in the living room.”
Mindy and Vincent had been married seven years when he became ill. “I wasn’t ready for that news at all,” said Ken.
INSPIRING NEW FRIENDSHIPS
A special moment at Saturday’s blood drive came when Mindy met Michelle Chappell and her daughter Jessica, who has a twin sister Julieanna. Jessica donated last year at Preble-Shawnee High School when she turned 16 and made her second lifetime donation Saturday.
“Her twin sister was sick at birth,” explained Michelle. “She needed a transfusion, and I was so scared. I watched them put a few ounces of blood into her body. Her eyes opened and I got to hold her. The next day she was off the ventilator and two weeks later I got to bring her home.”
Jessica was inspired to give because of her sister’s story, and even more after learning about Vincent’s struggle and Jeremiah’s birth. “I wanted to help people,” she said. “Not just like her, but people everywhere.”
Mindy is now committed to making the blood drive in Vincent’s honor an annual event. “She’s a very strong, determined woman in everything she does,” said her father Joey Williams, who donated Saturday.
“My goal is to thank everyone that participates,” she said. “This is in his memory and his honor, and to teach the boys about giving to others. It’s a ripple effect. I want them to grow up knowing that’s what life is about.”