Elijah Cantu, 7, was born with congenital cytomegalovirus, or CMV, which caused him to become permanently disabled and deaf.
The Keller boy also has cerebral palsy, epilepsy and other health issues, including a swallowing dysfunction that was caused by the virus, his mother, Julie Cantu said.
A Keller family is urging area residents to donate blood to help raise awareness about CMV and its devastating effects on unborn children.
The blood drive is scheduled for Aug. 9 in Roanoke.
CMV is contracted through bodily fluids and is most dangerous for people with a weakened immune system and unborn children, but generally harmless otherwise, Cantu said.
“We wanted to get the word out to families that CMV is something that can be very harmful, especially to pregnant women,” she said. “You can keep from getting it simply by being clean or not sharing drinks and just staying aware.”
Cantu said the American Red Cross, who is sponsoring the blood drive, is also low on blood during the summer months. Red Cross DFW Communications Manager Jan Hale said there were 80,000 fewer donors than expected since May.
“Nearly 20 percent of our donations come from high school and college students, so what happens in the summer is that these students aren’t on campus so the number of donations drop accordingly,” Hale said. “Summer is the most difficult time for collections too with everyone’s schedules changing and going on vacation.”
Hale said donors can give blood every 56 days and that habit gets pushed down the to-do list during the summer months. However, donors can visit any Red Cross location throughout the country and schedule appointments online if they are away from home.
Cantu and Hale urged people to donate to the needy and have their blood tested for CMV in order to prevent spreading the potentially harmful virus.
“It’s very important to come out and donate because there are people who really need it,” Cantu said. “People may not really think about it or know about it but it’s also very important to know your CMV status so you can help and be extra careful if you’re planning on becoming pregnant.”