By Ivan Escobar
By the time Ivan was born, in 1968, the Escobar family already had two boys with hemophilia. The first child had died in infancy as a result of head trauma. When Ivan came along, his family just continued to do the best they could for their family. His parents recruited relatives, friends, and even resorted to paying strangers to donate blood to the Red Cross, so that their boys could get the regular whole blood transfusions they needed.
However, Ivan still had many barriers to overcome. First of all, he lived in El Salvador, a third world country, where even today it is hard to get top quality health care, not to mention the appropriate medications. Compounding this, he was born with severe hemophilia.
Life went on for Ivan, his brother, and the rest of the family without many incidences until 1982, at which time Ivan vividly remembers a life-changing incident that had great impact on his family’s entire future. While Ivan’s parents were busy at work, Ivan had spent a good part of the afternoon riding on the handlebars of his 15-year-old brother’s 10-speed bike. Unfortunately, what became a carefree afternoon of fun for Ivan, became a nightmare for the rest of his family. Unbeknown to Ivan or his parents, was that his brother had injured his stomach, resulting in a stomach bleed. Not wanting to get in trouble or go to the emergency room, his brother did not tell anyone that he had injured himself.
The next day, while Ivan got ready for school, his brother informed his mother that he had had a lot of discomfort and confessed that he had injured himself the day before. Ivan was sent off to school, while his mother stayed to tend to her son. Her help proved too late, as he soon perished peacefully in her arms.
This was the turning point for the whole family. A month after the death of his second son, Ivan’s father gave up everything he had to immigrate to the U.S., and began making preparations to bring the rest of his family to what he hoped would be a better life. Fortunately, he soon befriended a good man, who helped him make a new life for himself and his family, and got the information he needed to find care for his son.
Life soon turned for the better, as Ivan and his mother were able to immigrate to the U.S. With the help of the many wonderful people at our local hemophilia treatment centers, Ivan soon received his first factor treatment and the appropriate care for his left knee that had suffered damage as a result of repeated bleeding episodes. He and his family no longer had to worry about recruiting people to give blood, or about getting the proper treatment – they were in good hands in our community.
Although this story resembles the stories of many individuals who grew up in the U.S. before factor concentrates were available, in many countries in the world individuals still do not have access to state of the art treatment. Many do not have any treatment at all. While cryoprecipitate has been available since 1964, and lyophilized (freeze-dried) concentrates of factor for since 1966, many around the world did not, and still do not have access to these treatments.
Today’s treatments for hemophilia are far more advanced than those available in the 60’s and 70’s. Although many children still have bleeding episodes, it is extremely rare that a family would have so many devastating medical misfortunes.
Ivan’s story, although filled with sorrow, had a happy ending. He was happy, healthy, and successful, in his own right. Most of all, seeing first hand the devastation that inadequate medical attention can have and the positive impact of a helping hand, he dedicated his life toward helping others, like himself, who have hemophilia. This is the same dedication that many of the Foundation’s most ardent supporters have shared. They have seen the devastation and the power of intervention, and are willing to help others, like themselves, make a better life.
Sadly, Ivan passed away on March 15, 2008. While we will miss him, he will not be forgotten. The world is a better place because of Ivan. He triumphed over adversity and touched many with his courage, a positive “can do” attitude and dedication to helping others.