Cameron Merrill was 19 months old when he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
He fought the disease for nine long months, cheerful and silly and goofy all the way. But on Jan. 17 of this year, his little body succumbed and Cameron died.
Monday, Sept. 23, was the Cameron Merrill Memorial Blood Drive at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend in Springfield. A total of 27 units were collected from 32 presenting donors. That’s a possible 81 lives saved — all in Cameron’s name.
Cameron’s mother, Shelley Merrill, was there, thanking donors personally. Her goal is to help create a legacy for her son, a legacy of service and giving.
“I just want him to make a difference,” Shelley says. “I want him to have the lifetime he didn’t have.”
Cameron was one of three children in the Merrill family of Corvallis. His older siblings, twins, recently turned 5. Shelley works for an oral surgeon, and her husband, Cressey Merrill, teaches scuba diving at Oregon State University, Linn-Benton Community College and elsewhere. They know a lot of people in the local diving community, including several people at Sacred Heart. Cameron was never a patient at Sacred Heart, but his story moved employees there to organize a blood drive on his behalf. This was the third blood drive in Cameron’s honor at the Springfield hospital, the first since he died.
Cameron received his treatment at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland, where the Merrill family lived for several months last year. While there, they noticed how many children needed blood to fight illness and recover from injury.
There is no synthetic substitute for human blood, so patients rely exclusively on blood donated via organizations like Lane Blood Center. Every two seconds, someone in the United States needs a transfusion. To meet that demand, more than 44,000 blood donations are needed each day. Cancer patients need blood, sometimes daily, during chemotherapy treatments. That was the case with Cameron.
“We took so much blood out of the system for his cancer treatment, and we are so thankful for it,” Shelley says. “I just want to put back into the system what we took out.”
It’s all part of making sure Cameron leaves an impact on the world he left far too soon.
“He would have turned 3 on Sept. 4,” Shelley said. “If he’d grown to be 80 years old, I would have made sure that he’d donate blood. He would have done a lot of good things in the world.”
For more information about donating blood at Lane Blood Center, call 541-484-9111. To learn more about Cameron Merrill, visit this Facebook page chronicling his fight.