The world of a young Raymond Terrace family has been turned upside down following the diagnosis in February of well-known father-of-two and husband, Deon McFadyen, with two forms of leukaemia.
The 40-year-old former Raymond Terrace league stalwart and fitness centre owner has been diagnosed with biphenotypic leukemia.
Since his diagnosis, McFadyen has endured four long stays at the Mater Hospital undergoing chemotherapy. At last count, he had received 36 blood transfusions on top of other blood products including plasma and platelets.
"I do have my good and bad days but right now I am feeling okay. A bone marrow transplant at Sydney's Westmead Hospital is my best chance for a healthy outcome. A donor has been found, I am waiting for a bed to become available," he said.
"It's quite amazing really ... one day we are a normal, happy family and the next our world has been turned upside down. I had always been a relativity fit and healthy person. Now we take each day as it comes."
Mr McFadyen said he could not put into words how hard it has been on his family and friends, who have been his towers of strength, particularly wife Emily.
"We have both had to put work on hold at different times, but I can't speak highly enough of the care and support we have received from friends and employers."
One of those family friends is Alison Weston, who has set up a Red Cross group called 'Big D' combined with a Facebook page under the title 'Big D Blood Challenge'.
"The idea is to get as many people to support the family by donating blood and registering with the 'Big D' team (a blood bank register), and posting a selfie on our Facebook page," Ms Weston said.
"Last check we had over 500 people following the page and 69 donations. The Red Cross updates us on how many lives we have saved. The challenge has provided Deon with lots of positive support from the community, and is getting people to roll up their sleeves and donate."
Brian Bruce, from the Red Cross, said there was a constant need for blood donations, particularly during the winter months.
"At this time of year we have an average of 1400 cancellation a day due to illnesses such as colds and flus, so we are always on the lookout for new donors. This challenge is a great opportunity for anyone wanting to make a significant impact on people like Deon," he said.
The Maitland and Newcastle blood banks are open six days a week, while the mobile unit will be at the Raymond Terrace netball courts on September 9-10 and at Medowie Community Centre on September 16-17.
To join the challenge go to donateblood.com.au.