Tray family

The Tray family, including young Maddalena

Prior to the arrival of their third child, Nancy and Joe Tray of Peters Township had no reason to expect complications during Maddalena’s delivery.

Then came an emergency trip from where she was born to the neonatal intensive care unit at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

“One of the nurses who had been there for 20 years told my husband, ‘I’ve never seen a baby get so much blood at one time,’” her mother recalled.

Maddalena had been diagnosed with a biochemical abnormality called metabolic acidosis.

“That means she had too much lactic acid in her body, which can be caused by prolonged oxygen deprivation,” Nancy said. “For some reason she wasn’t getting the oxygen, which, obviously, your vital organs need, and they were starting to shut down.

“But we had no idea why, and to this day have no idea why or what happened.”

She said Maddalena is in relatively good shape as she approaches her fourth birthday in February.

“Of all the things that she went through when she was born, this is probably one of the best-case scenarios for us,” she said. “We just feel blessed and thankful that she’s doing as well as she is today.”

To help show their gratitude toward some of the people who helped make that possible, the Trays have been hosting annual replenishment blood drives in Maddalena’s honor. The 2020 drive is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Nov. 6 at Peters Township Public Library, 616 E. McMurray Road.

“I was not a consistent blood donor prior to this, because I didn’t really realize the value,” Nancy said. “I’m just trying to educate myself and others on the importance, because honestly, she wouldn’t be alive if she didn’t have that blood that night.”

Her two older daughters had been born without any issues, and throughout her pregnancy with Maddalena, everything checked out well.

“But as soon as she was born, instead of me being able to hold her, they kind of took her right away,” Nancy recalled. “My husband had called our priest at the time, because we didn’t know what was going to happen. It didn’t look good at all.”

Nancy gives particular credit to four NICU nurses at Children’s for saving her daughter’s life, and Maddalena remained in the hospital for 40 days, receiving more than 40 blood products during her stay.

“She wouldn’t clot really well, so she needed a lot of platelets, for example,” her mother said.

Because she was suspected to have damage to major organs, Maddalena underwent a freezing protocol as a protective measure. Subsequent tests of her brain function came back with welcomed results, to say the least.

“The doctors were even flabbergasted by it,” Nancy said.

She added, though, that some other organs haven’t fared as well.

“We just had our appointment recently with the nephrologist, and he said, ‘We can’t tell you when, but at some point, her kidney function will decline, and she will need a kidney transplant,” Nancy said.

Continued testing should indicate at what point that is likely to occur. In the meantime, Maddalena’s mother keeps spreading the word about the importance of giving blood.

“I always say, donating is really a simple act of kindness with such an enormous impact,” Nancy said. “I feel that says it all, right there.”

To make an appointment to donate on Nov. 6, visit vitalant.org and click the “Log In” button. On the new window, choose “Donor Login” or “New Donor” and search with group code C594. Registration also can be made by calling 412-209-7000.

Multimedia Reporter

Staff writer Harry Funk, a professional journalist for three-plus decades, has been on the staff of The Almanac since 2015. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and master of business administration, both from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

See what people are talking about at The Community Table!