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Blood drive party for baby's birthday

By Shavonne Potts
spotts@salisburypost.com
Riley Brilliant is celebrating his first birthday with a party that includes cake and a blood drive.
His parents, Jason and Michelle Brilliant, are just thankful he’s alive to see his birthday. At five months, Riley was diagnosed in February with GMB (glioblastoma multiforme) brain cancer.
He turns one on Dec. 15 and his parents are throwing a party and everyone is invited.
Jason teaches Spanish at East Rowan High School and Michelle is a chemistry teacher at Mount Pleasant High.
On Saturday, the Elizabeth Hanford Dole Chapter of the American Red Cross is having its holiday blood drive in honor of Riley. The Red Cross was looking to host its drive in honor of someone and the Brilliants were looking to have a blood drive.
“Their goal is 120 units and that was similar to what we wanted to raise when we were going to have ours. It worked out really well,” Michelle said.
When he was just a few months old, Riley began developing seizure-like symptoms and was taken to the doctor.
A CT scan at the Jeff Gordon Children’s Hospital at Carolinas Medical Center-NorthEast in Concord revealed a mass on the top of the infant’s head. The mass doctors had spotted covered much of the left side of his brain.
He underwent a five-hour emergency surgery at Levine Children’s Hospital and further tests at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The cancer he had rarely shows up in infants.
Riley had many blood and platelet transfusions, receiving twice a much as any baby should normally have.
“We don’t want any gifts for his birthday. He doesn’t need anything, but what we are most appreciative of is the blood donations,” Michelle said.
She recalled the large amounts of blood Riley needed.
“He needed it so fast, we didn’t have time to give it to him. I thought it was something useful and that someone else could use,” Michelle said of the drive.
There is a greater need for blood during this time of year, said Sherry Smith, director of blood services.
She attributes the increased need to more traffic accidents since people are traveling to visit family.
A lot of potential donors aren’t eligible because of antibiotics they are taking because of colds or flu.
People can help by giving blood on Tuesday, Dec. 1, from 7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. at the Salisbury Civic Center.
“We will celebrate baby Riley Brilliant’s first birthday,” Smith said.
Debbie Suggs will provide the birthday cake. Co-sponsors of the blood drive are Cheerwine and Biscuitville of Salisbury.
All donors will also receive an American Red Cross holiday ornament and be eligible for special giveaways.
“This is one way his parents would like to thank the blood donors who gave him the precious gift of life,” Smith said.
In March, a group of fishermen organized a tournament to raise money for Riley’s treatment when he was at St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Memphis.
A few days before his party, Riley will return to Memphis for more testing.
Michelle said the family has been home since July. They made another trip to Memphis in September for a few days. Now Riley’s appointments there will be every three months. His next trip is Dec. 8-11, when he’ll have routine scans and a check-up.
Riley is still on oral chemotherapy, which his parents continue to administer every day for the next two months.
“He’s having a lot of seizures, almost on a daily basis,” Michelle said.
When Riley goes to Memphis, he’ll have an EEG to locate where the seizures are coming from. Doctors believe they originate in the left temporal lobe of the brain. They hope to determine what is causing the seizures.
“It could be scar tissue from his first surgery in February or blood or it could be fluid. He may looking at another surgery,” she said.
When Michelle says the family is throwing Riley a big party and everyone is invited, she means it.
“We are inviting everybody, anybody who’s been praying for him or following our story. We wanted to invite everybody,” she said.
The party is Dec. 12 from 9:30 a.m.-11 a.m. at Grace Bible Church, Rockwell, in the Life Center Gym.
The family is asking guests to not bring presents for Riley but for Toys for Tots.
“December is a good time to remind people it’s the season of giving,” Michelle said.
Guests are asked to bring a new unwrapped gift for a child of any age or gender. A Toys for Tots representative will be on hand to talk about the program and collect the toys.
“They are excited to participate,” Michelle said.
The party is circus-themed. There will be cotton candy, a moon bounce house and carnival booths that have been made and will be manned by members of the church’s congregation.
Debbie Suggs is also catering the birthday breakfast. There will also be a Krispy Kreme doughnut cake.
Anyone who would like to attend Riley’s birthday, please respond by Dec. 1 to brilliantbirthday@gmail.com.

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