Kids get sick. When 7-year-old Carson felt bad and started running a fever, his parents Pamela and Joe, thought it was just a virus. The fever, however, didn’t go away. In fact it got worse, until Carson had to go to the hospital. A quick check showed that his hemoglobin was dangerously low. He was given three units of blood immediately.

Carson’s problem was not a virus or a bacterium — it wasn’t one of those bugs children pick up at school. It was hereditary spherocytosis, a genetic disorder.

Spherocytosis affects the membrane of red blood cells. The cells are fragile and, because of their round shape and lack of flexibility, they can get caught in narrow blood vessels, especially in the spleen. Trapped, they burst, and the result can be anemia and splenomegaly, or enlarged spleen, a potentially life-threatening condition.

But that’s only part of the story. Spherocytosis is highly treatable–with a blood transfusion. Once Carson received three units of blood, his hemoglobin was back to normal within hours.

“It’s a good thing the blood is there,“ says Pamela. “And it’s there because people understand that donating blood is nothing compared with the difference it can make in someone else’s life.“

As for Carson’s dad, he can’t donate blood because he too has spherocytosis, but he helps by coordinating blood drives at work. He understands that he and his son are proof that donated blood saves lives.