Alesi Jones, a Tooele mother, held a blood drive on Aug. 12 to give back to the community after her daughter received several units of blood in the hospital last year after contracting E. coli.
The blood drive, put on by ARUP Blood Services, took place at the Church of Jesus of Latter-day Saints building at 180 S. Coleman Street in Tooele City from 1-5 p.m.
The event proved to be a success with over 12 units of blood collected, according to Jones.
Aug. 12 marked one year since Alesi Jones’ daughter Olivia was released from the hospital.
It was also Alesi Jones’ birthday; she turned 25.
“I’m doing this as a birthday and commemoration of my daughter leaving the hospital, and to celebrate everything good that has happened since then,” she said, speaking about the blood drive.
Her daughter’s illness began last year after eating at a restaurant, according to her father.
“We ate at the restaurant and within 24 hours, you could tell she was really sick,” Edward Jones said about his daughter Olivia.
Two-year-old Olivia had developed bloody diarrhea and her symptoms continued to worsen over the next few days.
Seeing no improvement, they rushed their daughter to several different doctors who told the family Olivia’s infection would go away on its own.
“The doctors told us that it was normal for Olivia to have some blood in her stool,” Edward Jones said. “They told us to let it pass.”
But when it didn’t pass, after the Jones changed over 90 diapers in 48 hours, they knew they needed to seek further help.
“She had over two diapers changed in an hour, like clockwork, nonstop for two days,” her father said. “She cried and had extreme abdominal pain. She even stopped eating and almost stopped drinking.”
Shortly after, the family received a call that they needed to go to the hospital after results from a stool test came back confirming E. coli. Doctors told the family that Olivia’s kidneys had failed, so the family rushed their daughter to Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City.
During her time at the hospital, Olivia had to have dialysis and was given around three units of blood.
“It was scary for a while,” Edward Jones said. “She almost died.”
Nearly two weeks later, Olivia was released from the hospital.
It is a year later now and it is still unknown if she will make a 100% comeback, according to her mother.
“She’s progressing,” Olivia’s mother said. “We were told that the first year would determine a lot. We were told recently that her kidneys are in a diseased state. They could fail again or they could continue to grow.”
The Jones family is thankful for all of the support they received during their time at the hospital and after.
“The community helped us so much when we were in the hospital and when we asked for donations for hospital bills,” Alesi Jones said. “It’s because of everyone’s love and prayers that I strongly believe Olivia has recovered so well.”
Alesi Jones knew she had to put on a blood drive after having a first-hand look at how important blood donation is.
“When we were in the hospital, that’s when I realized how important giving blood is, because Olivia got blood that was donated and it helped save her life,” Alesi Jones said. “Most people don’t want to donate until they know someone who has needed blood and that’s the same situation for me. The first time I donated was in April. This blood drive was my way of giving back.”
The Jones’ friends and family, along with complete strangers, stepped in to donate blood at the event.
“The community’s reaction has been good,” Alesi Jones said. “It was hard to get people to sign up at first but we had a few walk-ins, which helped a lot.”
Alesi Jones believes it is important for everyone to give back to their community.
“It’s important to reflect on what others have done for you,” she said. “It takes a village to help someone who is in need.”
Olivia’s E. coli infection was part of a nationwide outbreak that began in 2020.
People can catch E. coli, an infection in the gastrointestinal tract, when human or animal feces is not washed off of food correctly and it is consumed. Symptoms of an infection include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea with or without blood, low-grade fever, and vomiting.
The seriousness of the infection depends on age and other health conditions present, but small children and the elderly are at a greater risk for heightened infection.
To avoid infection, individuals should wash their hands thoroughly with warm water and soap after using the restroom and before preparing food, cooking ground beef well, avoid raw milk or unpasteurized products, and when swimming, avoid swallowing the water.
“Olivia is a fighter and I just want people to know to be careful to avoid getting E. coli,” Edward Jones said.
To learn more about E. coli, visit cdc.gov. To find out more about blood donation or how to organize your own blood drive, visit utahblood.org.