By Kathryn Rice

The importance of donating blood during National Blood Donor Month in January is illustrated by the Clayton family of Burlington Jct.

Jocelyn, the daughter of John and Lani Clayton, was born prematurely. Lani had been to the doctor for a normal pregnancy checkup two weeks prior and everything was fine. Shortly afterward, she experienced what she thought were flu symptoms, which after three days developed into severe back pain.

She called the doctor, who told her to come in immediately. Upon arrival in St. Joseph, the Claytons were told Lana had pre-eclampsia. To save both the mother and the baby, she was life-flighted to St. Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City. Jocelyn was born at 5:30 am the next morning. Lani was so ill that she did not see Jocelyn for the first three days. 

“This put John in a position no husband and new father wants to be in; going between wife and new daughter who were both in critical condition,” Lana said. “Thankfully, Jocelyn had a doctor who himself was a father of a preemie. He fully understood the physical and emotional chaos.

“Our first experience with blood transfusions was within hours of Jocelyn being born. John was told about the process and how premature babies will need transfusions for a variety of reasons. John went to the local Red Cross blood bank that afternoon and donated.

“We were fortunate Jocelyn didn’t need several medical procedures like many preemies, but her journey still resembled a roller coaster,” Lani said. “Jocelyn received five blood transfusions to maintain her oxygen levels.”

The lack of oxygen in the blood resulted in two eye surgeries before leaving the hospital. Due to her eye development issues, Jocelyn has to monitor all signs of retinal detachment and see the specialist after any type of head injury.

Jocelyn is the granddaughter of Rich and Sheryl Slaten, Clearmont, and Joyce Clayton, Braddyville, IA, and the late Lowell Clayton. She attended elementary school from the age of three through sixth grade at Horace Mann Laboratory School and graduated from Craig High School in 2017. 

She is a third-year Presidential Scholar at Park University in Parkville, with a 4.0 GPA. She is double-majoring in English and secondary education. Her original career goal was to become a high school English teacher but she is also considering staying at the college level to work in the student affairs arena.

As Jocelyn grew up, she wanted to give back to others who had donated blood and saved her life as a preemie. As a high school sophomore, Jocelyn gave her first blood donation during a Community Blood Drive held at her school.

The second time she tried to donate, she was denied due to low iron levels. Since then, Jocelyn makes sure to eat properly and meet her body’s needs for donating blood. At college, there are Red Cross blood drives about once a semester. Jocelyn makes it a point to schedule an appointment each time, if possible, so she can give to others who might need blood transfusions as she did. 

Jocelyn campaigns for donations when blood drives are announced. She has been able to get a few friends and classmates to join the cause. This past semester her sister, who also attends Park University, donated for the first time.

“Donations of any kind can help people in need; however donating something as precious as blood helps save more than a life – it saves families, produces memories and enables people to continue living strong, healthy, and happy lives,” Jocelyn said.

“Each individual that a blood donation assists is someone’s parent, sibling, child,” Lani said. “Our family, like many others, has benefitted from selfless donors. The experience has led my husband, myself and both daughters to all donate blood.”

“It was such a helpless feeling when Jocelyn needed a blood transfusion,” John said. “We were so thankful to those who donated so that she could have a chance at life.”

  For National Blood Donor Month, the First United Methodist Church will be sponsoring the Maryville Community Blood Drive from 11 am to 7 pm, Tuesday, January 21 at the fellowship hall of the church located at 102 North Main Street, Maryville. For more information, contact Evie Church at 660.582.2671 or

  The Masonic Lodge #470 is sponsoring a blood drive from 2 to 7 pm, Thursday, January 30 at the Nodaway County Senior Center, 1210 East First Street, Maryville. For more information, contact Darren White at 660.582.1448.