LINCOLN, R.I. (WPRI) — Just like her namesake, Lincoln 5-year-old Raelyn Augusto is a force to be reckoned with.
Her parents, who describe themselves as self-proclaimed Star Wars fanatics, named her after the franchise’s first female protagonist: Rey.
The Augosto family’s world changed forever last October, when Rae was diagnosed with leukemia.
“We were floored,” her father Jonathan Augusto said. “I think I punched a wall in the hospital that day. You don’t think it will ever happen to you.”
Jonathan knew his little girl was in for the fight of her life.
“Rebel Rae,” as her parents and the community backing her affectionately call her, recently completed chemotherapy, and is now undergoing immunotherapy. Jonathan said once she’s finished that, she will be heading to Boston for a stem cell transplant.
Throughout her fight, Rae has needed four blood platelet transfusions.
Jonathan said he never would have known the importance of donating blood if it weren’t for his daughter’s illness.
“I didn’t know this world existed,” he said. “You hear about kids having cancer and you just don’t think about it.”
The regional blood supply remains dangerously low. Last year, the Rhode Island Blood Center declared a “blood emergency” statewide.
Platelets are especially hard to come by, especially since donating them is typically a two-hour process.
Blood and platelet donations can mean life or death for children like Rae, and that certainly isn’t lost on her father.
“If the blood wasn’t there, I don’t know what we would do,” he said.
Jonathan said that, while he donated blood for the first time only two months ago, he will continue to do so if it means saving not only his daughter’s life, but the lives of others as well.
“You are literally saving a life,” Danielle Lomba of the R.I. Blood Center said. “Take those two hours and think about the fact that you’re literally saving a 5-year-old who is going through treatment … and she would want two more hours, three more hours, another week, another month with her family and those platelets can make that difference for her.”
Despite having the odds stacked against her, Rae is a fighter through and through. Jonathan is confident that his daughter has the force within her to overcome this devastating disease.