JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A 10-year-old Jacksonville boy was celebrating Friday after receiving his 100th blood transfusion.
Cai Cammilleri has a very rare blood disorder called beta thalassemia major, which causes a range of symptoms and requires him to get blood transfusions once a month.
Fortunately, his classmates know how to cheer him up. He had a stack of cards to help him get through the day, like this one from a friend: "Happy 100th transfusion. Love Zara."
"It makes me feel good because my friends in my classes support me," Cai told News4Jax reporter Zac Lashway.
According to the National Institutes of Health, the rare disorder causes people to produce fewer of the iron-rich proteins that carry oxygen through the bloodstream. As a result, patients need lifelong care.
Among other things, it means patients get tired more easily than their peers. But it can have more serious consequences. For example, they're also at a much greater risk of developing blood clots.
The disorder is something that Cai, who is adopted, has in common with his brother, Corbyn, who's also 10 years old. Their family found out Corbyn had the disease when he was just 14 months old.
Because the disorder is hereditary, the boys' parents decided not to have any more biological children once Corbyn was born -- though years later the couple had a little girl, who does not have the disease.
But it was around that time that the family decided to adopt a child with beta thalassemia major. That's where Cai came into the picture. Together, he and his brother have had more than 250 transfusions.
The pair have been getting their treatments at Nemours Children’s Health System in Jacksonville. The hospital treats only five people with this disease. The family said there's a clinic trial in the works.
Lynzie Cammilleri, the boys’ mother, said the disease is time-consuming. As a result, their lives are not what most families would consider normal. It means missing out on things others take for granted.
"It is difficult for a child not to participate in activities at school," she said. "They miss more days than is allotted in a school year for blood transfusions and possible hospitalizations."
But through it all, the brothers are buddies and they know they can always count on each other.
“I think there is a special bond that we will be thankful for some day," Cammilleri explained.