For Love of Sophie blood drive celebrates baby's life

Feb. 24, 2014 @ 10:11 AM

Sophie Layne Bryant lived only 18 days, but 10 years after her premature death, the Archdale infant continues to have an impact on her community.
Sophie is the subject of the community’s For Love of Sophie Blood Drive, an annual event hosted by the Bryant family’s church, Springfield Friends Meeting.
“They bring in about 40 to 45 units of blood every year,” says Perri Coltrane, recruitment representative for the Carolinas Blood Region of American Red Cross Blood Services. “It’s mostly family and friends who know Sophie’s story, but it has continued to make an impact. For them, it’s a celebration of Sophie’s life, but it also helps others who need blood because of a car accident or cancer or whatever reason.”
This year’s blood drive will be held Thursday, from 2 to 6:30 p.m., at the church.
“We normally do it on her birthday, which would be (Friday), but we had some conflicts this year,” says Sophie’s mother, Debi Bryant. “It’s a celebration of her life, and this would’ve been her 10th birthday.”
Sophie, the Bryants’ third child, was born on Feb. 28, 2004, at High Point Regional Hospital, following what seemed to be a normal pregnancy.
“We didn’t have any reason to suspect anything was wrong,” Debi recalls. “We had done an ultrasound, and everything looked OK. When she was born, there was a slight indication of distress during labor, so we had to do an emergency C-section, but we still didn’t know until about 18 hours after she was born that there were complications.”
Sophie was diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, or HLHS, a rare congenital heart defect in which the left side of the heart is severely undeveloped. In Sophie’s case, Debi explains, her aortic valve was completely closed, her mitral valve was underdeveloped, and her left ventricle was too small.
The condition led to a situation in which there was no path for oxygen-rich blood to reach Sophie’s aorta.
“That’s when the doctors noticed something was wrong,” Debi says. “She was turning blue and was in obvious distress.”
Sophie was transported to Brenner Children’s Hospital in Winston-Salem, where she underwent two surgeries in as many days. Then she was placed on an ECMO machine — ECMO is an abbreviation for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation — which is essentially a heart-lung machine. That’s where Debi and her husband, Tommy, got the idea for a blood drive in Sophie’s honor.
“We noticed that that machine required a lot of blood and blood product,” Debi says, “so we thought about doing a blood drive in her honor. Our Sunday school class at Springfield Friends started planning the blood drive, but Sophie passed away before it was held, so it was held in her memory. The next year, we decided to hold the blood drive as a celebration of her life, because we wanted people to remember her.”
This year’s blood drive comes at a critical time, as winter storms and freezing temperatures have resulted in the cancellation of more than 600 American Red Cross blood drives since the beginning of January, according to Red Cross officials.
Right now, blood products are being distributed to hospitals as quickly as donations are coming in, officials say.
The For Love of Sophie Blood Drive has grown into an event that the Archdale community looks forward to every year, Debi Bryant says.
“We’ve been so overwhelmed by the support from the community for the last 10 years,” she says.
The event has even attracted people who don’t normally donate blood, according to Debi.
“It sort of draws them in and gives them a reason,” she says. “I’ll have friends say, ‘I would not do this for anybody else.’ It’s not something people are comfortable doing, but because they knew Sophie and they know us, they’re willing to come out and do this for us. It’s really a testament of how strong our community is in its support, even 10 years later.”

jtomlin@hpe.com | 888-3579

Want to help?

The annual For Love of Sophie Blood Drive will be held Thursday, from 2 to 6:30 p.m., at Springfield Friends Meeting, 555 E. Springfield Road.
The blood drive is held to honor the memory of Sophie Layne Bryant, an infant who was born Feb. 28, 2004 and died 18 days later, on March 16, 2004.
For more information, contact the Greater High Point-Davidson Chapter of the American Red Cross at 885-9121.