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