Giving Birth Offers a Unique Opportunity to Give Life to Others

November 14, 2017 at 2:42 pm

For new moms like Keri, donating umbilical cord blood is a simple way to save a life.

In 1998, Keri Tawney’s father underwent treatment for multiple myeloma—a type of blood cancer—at the University of Washington Medical Center. Regular blood transfusions were an integral part of his treatment. Although he was a candidate for a stem cell transplant from his own bone marrow, Keri’s dad passed away before he was able to complete this treatment.

Keri decided to honor her father’s memory by donating the umbilical cord blood of her daughter, Kassie, born in 2006. Like bone marrow, umbilical cord blood contains stem cells that can help doctors treat myeloma, leukemia and other cancers and immune disorders.

After cord blood is collected it is processed, “typed,” tested and entered into the national transplantation registry. The units are available to patients in need both in the U.S. and around the world.

Keri recollects, “Donating my daughter’s cord blood gave me a sense of closure about my dad’s passing. Though it couldn’t help him, I knew Kassie’s cord blood could make a life-changing difference for someone else.”

That’s exactly what happened.

In April 2010, Keri received a call from Bloodworks Northwest’s Cord Blood Program: Kassie’s cord blood was a match for a similar-age boy with leukemia. After hearing the news, Keri was overwhelmed with emotion.

In a personal blog post about the receiving the call, Keri wrote: “The recipient family’s] road ahead is long, and the courage and will power required of this little boy will be beyond what most of us can ever comprehend, but I am so grateful that he has this chance, and so grateful to the Bloodworks Northwest cord blood donation program.”

Kassie isn’t old enough to know how her cord blood donation had a lifesaving impact. But Keri plans to tell her when she is old enough to understand. “She has an empathetic heart, and it will surely be meaningful to her,” Keri says.

Unfortunately, despite its lifesaving potential cord blood is often discarded. New moms don’t know about the opportunity to donate. BloodworksNW is working hard to spread the word and to make the process available in all maternity wards. Donating cord blood: one new life, and another life saved. What could be more powerful than that?

BloodworksNW created the first umbilical cord-blood program in the Pacific Northwest in 1997. Today we partner with 12 hospitals in Washington State, Oregon, and Hawaii. growing partnerships hold the promise of saving more lives, raising awareness about cord blood donation and increasing the availability of stem cells for transplantation. Find out more at BloodworksNW.org/cordblood.

Retired Army Vet Draws on Military Experience as a Bloodworks Northwest Volunteer

November 11, 2017 at 9:58 am

In some ways, John Ferdon saw himself as a professional dad. A former United States Army troop commander, he was responsible for young soldiers’ safety and well-being in Korea, day and night.

“It’s kind of like you’re a parent—you’re so involved in every facet of life,” he said. “Except, obviously, these aren’t kids—they’re soldiers. I had to make sure they had the skills necessary to do the things they were asked to do.”

John’s experience mentoring up-and-coming leaders shines in his role as a volunteer donor monitor at Bloodworks Northwest in Bellingham. As a volunteer, John supports donors at high school and college blood drives throughout Whatcom County. Part of the appeal, he said, is the interesting conversations that crop up—and the opportunity to inspire the next generation of blood donors.

“What really has impressed me at the high schools is the number of first-time donors,” he said. “They’re sixteen years old and they’re coming in to start donating blood.”

Like those young donors, John entered army service with little idea of the lifelong impact he could have. He joined the army in 1967 with the intention to serve for two years and get back to graduate school. But there was one problem: he really liked it.

John poses with Bloodworks volunteer coordinator Elizabeth Page’s daughter, Virginia, after presenting at her elementary school. 

Two years of active duty turned into 20. John went on to spend another 21 years in a civilian role as an army management analyst. For 15 of those total 41 years, he was stationed overseas in Korea, Vietnam and Germany.

According to John, military service helped him understand the power of a blood donation and instilled a sense of duty to give blood when possible.

“That was just something that was part of the army culture if you will—the importance of donating,” he said. “During the army and of course now with my volunteer work, I’m constantly meeting donors who voluntarily tell me how important this is either because they have needed blood or someone in their family or friends have needed it,” he said.

After more than four decades of military service, a little rest and relaxation was in order. But John and his wife, Margo, didn’t want to retire just anywhere. The appeal of Bellingham, Washington?

“Believe it or not, it was the weather,” John said.

Today, John is a member of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post and a regular volunteer with Bloodworks. As in his army days, he prizes the opportunity both organizations offer to connect with the community.

“Anywhere I’m stationed in the army, there’s always been a connection either within the army family or outside with the local communities,” he said. “I do feel that as veterans, we have an obligation to support our community and we do that just as much as we can.”

Bloodworks is profoundly grateful to John and all of America’s veterans for the service they have given and continue to give–as blood donors, volunteers, colleagues, and partners. Thank you for making our world a better place.

Meet the Bloodworks Center for Global Impact’s New Class of Life Savers

November 2, 2017 at 12:20 pm

In October, healthcare leaders from around the world traveled to Bloodworks Northwest–some, despite horrific natural disasters–to attend a special Bloodworks Center for Global Impact course. Below, we share some of their stories and the insights they’ll use to save lives back home. 

There’s a river where a road once was in Peggy Samuels’s Turks and Caicos hometown.

In a series of photos, Peggy’s daughter captured the destruction left by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Tilting utility poles and sagging palm trees grazed murky brown water that seeped into buildings’ ground floors.

Though Peggy said her kids were scared, she kept her travel plans to Bloodworks Northwest’s Seattle headquarters. As Chief Medical Technologist for the National Blood Bank of Turks and Caicos Islands, Peggy was part of a special group of international healthcare leaders attending the Bloodworks Center for Global Impact Laboratory Quality Management Systems course. “I made a huge effort to get here after the hurricanes because I found it so important to obtain the knowledge that we’re now getting,” she said.

The Bloodworks Center for Global Impact prepares healthcare professionals from all over the world to tackle blood banking challenges in their home countries–from dealing with infected blood, to boosting donor recruitment and engagement. This year’s scholars traveled from as far as Burkina Faso and Cote d’Ivoire to get the most up-to-date information about collecting and transfusing blood.

Bloodworks Northwest’s role as a blood center and research institute puts it in a unique position to help, according to Bloodworks’ Chief Operating Officer, Linda Barnes.”There are many organizations that academically train individuals, but they may not have the breadth and depth of services we offer from arm to arm,” she said.

Meet the Scholars

DSC_2000Peggy Samuels 
Turks and Caicos Ministry of Health, Agriculture and Human Services

Her Role: Chief Medical Technologist, overseeing the National Public Health Lab and Blood Bank
Why Bloodworks Academy: “The skills that we learn here will really impact our organizations back home. I made a huge effort to get here after the hurricanes because I found it so important to obtain the knowledge that we’re now getting.”
Biggest Challenge: “Before the hurricanes, we wanted to stock up on blood, and we were so stressed out anticipating a Category 5, that nobody wanted to donate. People were busy putting up their shutters, people were busy buying plywood, getting water, stocking up. We sent text messages, but it was difficult–I’ve never experienced that before.”
New Insight: “We don’t have an apheresis machine, so right now if an adult needs platelets, we have to take five donors to get the five packs of platelets. [At Bloodworks], you can take one donor, hook them up to the apheresis machine and you get one set of platelets for one patient, which is so much easier.”

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Dr. Liliane Siransy
National Blood Transfusion Service of Cote D’Ivoire

Her Role: Blood Bank Coordinator
Why Bloodworks Academy: “Blood transfusion is my passion and it’s very interesting to see how it’s done here in Seattle.”
Biggest Challenge: “We have a lot of budgetary problems. It’s very hard to perform our services because there’s always something that interrupts us on a daily basis. Nevertheless, we do have personnel who are very motivated and who work very hard to find solutions.”
New Insight: “On the very first day we learned that the collection of blood can take place with donors who are as young as sixteen. Where I come from, it begins at eighteen years of age. We have a terrible lack of blood and I heard it would be possible–with all of the necessary precautions–to lower the age to somehow mediate our shortage.”

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Carol Robinson
Lab Manager, Turks and Caicos Island Hospital Clinical Lab

Her Role: Lab Manager
Why Bloodworks Academy: “To learn more about how I can improve in the services of blood banking back in the Turks and Caicos islands. As well as to see if what we’re doing back at home is OK.”
Biggest Challenge: “Having the donors come in to donate.”
New Insight: “I’m learning that some of the challenges we have back home are also here. I’m learning that there’s always room to learn more, there’s always room for improvement. There are even some things you don’t realize you know until someone brings it up to you. It opens your eyes and it reinforces what you already know.”

Dr. Amadou Diarra
National Blood Transfusion Service of Mali

His Role: Transfusion Specialist
Biggest Challenge: “We don’t have enough blood donors. Infectious diseases are prevalent in our area as well. There are very few qualified people in the field and we are very short on financing.”
Why Bloodworks Academy: “We came to see the best and to learn from the best.  It’s wonderful to be able to benefit from the training we’re receiving at Bloodworks and we hope to transfer the knowledge into or own practices in our own countries.”
New Insight: What we’re seeing here is not something new for us, but what is different is the organization, the skills. At the end of this visit, we’re going to try to understand what we can do with what we have acquired here and try to apply it, taking into consideration the limited resources we have at home.”

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Sheryl Jones
Turks and Caicos Islands Hospital

Her Role: Lead Medical Technologist
The Biggest Challenge: “The challenges I face are the doctors ordering more blood than we can keep up with. We have to be calling them, asking, ‘Do you still really need this unit? Can we please release it?’ The next challenge is that the doctors do not share with their patients that its good for you to bring in a donor so you have a unit of blood on standby.”
New Insight: “Bloodworks’ Dr. Megan spoke about when you should transfuse [blood] and how much do you transfuse. I found that so interesting because it’s one of the problems the director back home was facing.”

Behind the Scenes: A Bloodworks Donor’s Photo Shoot with Seattle Football Star Bobby Wagner

October 27, 2017 at 1:06 pm

 

 

 

Bobby Wagner-2Nicole Stanton is an art director, mama of two boys, blood donor–and a big football fan.

So naturally, she was thrilled when she found out she would be joining the Bloodworks photo shoot with Seattle professional football player Bobby Wagner. Bobby will hang out with 12 randomly selected donors and volunteers at the end of the season.

“I was a huge fan when Bobby joined the team, and getting to meet him and get some photos was awesome,” she said. “A lot of bragging on social media.”

Nicole has been a blood donor even longer than she’s been bleeding blue and green.

“It all started in high school and from there, when I see an opportunity, I take advantage of it,” she said.

Though Nicole is sometimes deferred due to a low iron count, she makes it a point to donate when the Bloodworks bus comes to her work. For her, it’s an efficient way to help the community and an opportunity to set an example for her kids.

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“I have a six-year-old who’s very impressionable right now,” she said. “I’m trying to lay out a good example of community service at a young age.”

According to Nicole, Bobby’s support of blood donation is another great example.

“I think they are an awesome football team and I love their commitment to doing good in the community,” she said. “The fact that the partnership exists makes total sense to me.”

So, what was Bobby like in person?

“He is super kind and he definitely has a sense of humor,” she said.  “My dad is a fan, and you know, all through my life, my kids and everything, he’s like, ‘Oh that’s cool,’ but that photo of me and Bobby—he was so impressed. I think I made him the most proud of me he’s ever been.”

Want to hang out with Bobby Wagner too? You’ll be entered to win an invite each time you give blood or volunteer, through Feb. 4. Learn more at MeetBobby.BloodworksNW.org.

For One Platelet Donor, Cancer Closes the Loop

October 10, 2017 at 10:30 am

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Parts of the blood donation process are predictable: Cushy chair, poke, wrap, snack.

But what happens next can seem like a mystery.

Bloodworks donor and volunteer Scott Carstensen gained unique insight into a blood donation’s journey when, five years ago, his wife Holly was diagnosed with Stage 3 invasive breast cancer.

When it comes to cancer, it can be hard to identify a single “toughest part.” For Scott, there’s no question.

“Seeing my wife on the couch, curled up in a ball looking like a zombie,” he recalled. “She looked like she was half dead and the only thing I could do to help was take her to a doctor. It was just heartbreaking.”

At the time, Scott had been a regular platelet donor for three years. But his blood donations were about to get a lot more personal.

Cancer patients frequently need platelets, particularly when enduring chemotherapy. This aggressive treatment leads to low platelet counts which, according to American Cancer Society, can put patients at risk for life-threatening infections or bleeding.

As Scott began taking Holly to chemotherapy, he noticed a familiar name on other chemo patients’ blood transfusion bags.

“All the patients had bags of blood that said ‘Puget Sound Blood Center’–now Bloodworks Northwest,” he said. “It was an eye-opening experience for me, because here’s my lovely wife needing a blood transfusion and local people are helping to save her life. It really just closed the loop for me.”

Scotty Family

Scott’s wife, Holly, with their son, Marze, daughter, Troy, and dog. 

Throughout Holly’s treatments, Scott continued to donate platelets every week. These donations had another unpredictable benefit.

“The ladies at the blood center were a huge part of my weekly battle,” he said. “They would hear me pour my heart out, we’d cry together and laugh together.”

The same ladies gave Scott and Holly a gift certificate to the Bonneville Hot Springs Resort. One year later, they were able to enjoy it together. Today, Holly is healthy and cancer-free.

Scott continues to regularly donate platelets at the Bloodworks Vancouver Donor Center. Even though Holly no longer needs blood transfusions, he has a unique understanding of his donations’ impact.

“You never know when somebody around you or close to you is going to need these products,” he said.

For now, the best he can do is prepare for the unpredictable.

Scott 200 Donations

Scott earned a special leaf on the tree of life after donating blood 200 times. 

 

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