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. 

 

Local Lifeline: A Life Saved in Lane County

September 15, 2017 at 2:18 pm

During the Thanksgiving weekend of 2000, Ed St. Clair was suffering with severe back and abdominal pain.

He needed immediate medical assistance. Knowing it would be a long wait for an ambulance in the rural area where they lived, his wife Adrienne drove him to the fire station in South Eugene. From there, he was transported to Sacred Heart Medical Center.

Ed St. ClairThe rapidly responding medical team diagnosed Ed’s condition as an aortic aneurysm on the verge of rupture – a life-threatening health crisis. The bulging aneurysm was detected on the largest blood vessel in the human body. This artery delivers blood from the heart directly to the vital organs. If it bursts, the odds of survival are only 6 percent. Half of those rare survivors become paralyzed permanently as a result of nerve damage from the lack of oxygenated blood flowing throughout the body.

Ed was stabilized to prepare for the surgery to repair his damaged aorta. Vascular specialist Dr. David DeHass, MD and thoracic surgeon Dr. David Duke, MD were out of town for the holiday but were called back to perform the delicate operation. As he waited for the doctors to return to Eugene, the situation became more critical as the chronic inflammation from Ed’s rheumatoid arthritis allowed blood to leak from the aneurism in his chest.

After a terrifying and seemingly endless 24 hours, the operation began in hopes that Ed’s life could be saved. During the 9-hour procedure, the expert surgical team grafted a tube of dacron polyester fabric into the damaged section of Ed’s aorta. The procedure successfully repaired the blood vessel and allowed Ed’s circulatory system to begin recovering.

St. Clair Family

Within the span of one day, Ed received 65 units of A positive blood. Thanks to the generous donors at Lane Memorial Blood Bank (now Lane Bloodworks), that blood was available right here in our community.

“Without the blood, there would have been no point in doing the surgery,” Ed said. “Blood was an essential component of the surgery.” Today Ed suffers no ill-effects from the ordeal, and has continued to donate blood whenever possible. He jokes, “I had to miss my appointment to donate blood at Lane Memorial Blood Bank the Monday after the surgery, though.”

First Person: My Life With Sickle Cell Disease

September 13, 2017 at 11:47 am

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Most college students’ biggest worry is their upcoming test or weekend plans. For Washington State University student Laelah Ndifon, it’s how quickly she can get to the nearest hospital.

Laelah has sickle cell disease, an inherited disorder that makes her red blood cells shaped like stiff crescents instead of flexible discs. These pointed cells can snag on blood vessel walls, preventing oxygen from reaching her tissues. As a result, Laelah often experiences intense pain, called a “pain crisis,” that can be life-threatening. Blood transfusions from local donors give Laelah renewed strength and energy by increasing the number of disc-shaped cells in her bloodstream.

Keep reading to learn about how Laelah copes with pain crises, a common sickle cell misconception, and the one thing she wants blood donors to know.

On coping with sickle cell pain crises: Most of my pain crises feel like I’m being stabbed repeatedly by knives and can last for hours, days, and even weeks. The way I take my mind off of my pain is usually by pacing back and forth around the room which sounds weird, but it really calms my mental state through the pain. When it comes to dealing with other people during my pain episodes, I may come off as rude. Not because I want to, but I’m trying to keep my composure and mental state at ease. When I’m being asked a bunch of questions and people are trying to keep a conversation with me, I easily become irritated because the pain causes me to stutter which becomes frustrating. So, I really enjoy isolating myself and dealing with my pain on my own.

Laelah4Laelah with her brother. 

On misconceptions: A common misconception a lot of people have about sickle cell is that it is contagious. Growing up, a lot of people always asked if I was contagious or were scared to share food with me because they were afraid they would get sickle cell, which is not true at all. That’s what I want to stress the most to people who are ignorant about the illness. The only way someone can have sickle cell is through birth and even then, your parents have traits of sickle cell and in some cases, one parent has the trait and the other does not.

On day-to-day challenges: Sickle has impacted my life in so many ways. When I was in high school, I became very fit and became very serious about my physical health. I was working out aggressively one day, and the workout was so strenuous that it put me in the hospital due to a serious pain crisis. From that day moving forward, I had to slow down and rest when needed. I have also had pain crisis in areas of my body that I didn’t know could even have pain crisis. I had my wisdom teeth removed and had sickle cell pain in my mouth for a month and the pain almost matched the severity of my main crisis area: my legs.

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On managing sickle cell in college: Being in college and having sickle cell has impacted my life tremendously. Washington State University is 5 hours away from Seattle, where all my healthcare providers are. So when I am having a pain crisis, I have to go to the nearest hospital that treats sickle cell which is an hour away. Receiving instant medical attention is definitely a huge problem I’ve faced. While in college, I have also developed a severe case of iron deficiency which has affected my performance in my classes. I recently just began having iron infusions that have given me a lot of energy to be academically successful which I am very excited about.

On blogging as an outlet for inspiration: I love helping people and creating an impact in people’s lives, so I decided to create a blog called The Fluer. I try to make it as relatable as possible. I talk about issues pertaining to anxiety, depression, positivity and how to get through it. In many ways my blog has helped me through so much and I have received feedback from people who go through mental illnesses/sickle cell who have found my blog resourceful to them. I hope to be able to help my sickle cell community in the future by opening a non-profit organization and a mentoring program for sickle cell youth. I think my blog is baby steps to my goals for my sickle cell community.

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On the power of blood transfusions: My sickle cell has reached its worst state when I was in high school and had two strokes and a seizure. I was immediately rushed to the hospital where I was given a blood transfusion for the first time. Without that blood transfusion, I don’t think I would be living the wonderful life I am living today. I also didn’t really pay attention to how important donating blood is. With every blood donation, donors are saving so many lives and aren’t given as much credit as they should.

On what she’d say to blood donors: Thank you to each and every blood donor who takes it upon themselves to help others. Your contribution not only is saving lives, but making a huge impact in the world. You’re needed, appreciated, and such a huge part of many people’s lives. Thank you for saving my life!

Preparing for Disaster: A Message From Our CEO

September 11, 2017 at 10:40 am

Rotary

Bloodworks Northwest President & CEO Dr. James AuBuchon shared the following remarks at the Rotary Club of Seattle on Sept. 6, 2017. 

There are individuals in our community who generously support others by regularly donating blood.  As Hurricane Harvey bore down on the Texas Coast, and the flood waters were devastating Houston neighborhoods, their support of human need was already evident. Many of those individuals are in this room today, and I want to thank you.

Your gift allowed us to be prepared and respond – respond by providing blood that was prepositioned at Coastal Bend Blood Center in Corpus Christi or that was shipped to Dallas and airlifted to Houston hospitals a week ago before Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center could get back on their feet. They are operational again – but now we have Hurricane Irma headed toward the United States, and we have already received requests to for support from the affected areas since they know they will not be able to collect according to their usual operations.

The moral of the story: Be Prepared. The blood that is needed in a disaster – whether it’s a hurricane or a bus crash on the Aurora Bridge or an emergency surgery that never makes the news– has to already have been recruited, collected, tested, processed and ready to go before the event. So when you hear our request to donate in coming months, or you learn of a blood drive at work or your place of worship, please sign up. When you see our blood mobiles and signs, please walk in to help, to help your neighbor, a family member or someone affected by a disaster, small or large. Your donation being there, at the ready, could indeed make the difference between life and death.

Thank you.

Help us prepare to help others in need: Register to give blood today.

New Donation Hours: Labor Day & Beyond

September 1, 2017 at 10:05 am

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We’re making it even easier for you to save a life. Keep reading to learn about our upcoming holiday hours, new Saturday donation options, and a coffee giveaway that ends this Monday, September 4.

Labor Day Hours

All Bloodworks Donor Centers will be open on Monday, Sept. 4, from  8:00 am – 4:00 pm. Take a day off from your labors and save a life in one of our comfy donor chairs–we’ll make sure it doesn’t feel like work at all. Platelet donors especially needed on Sunday and Monday.

Book Appointment Now

New Weekend & Extended Hours 

Federal Way Donor Center

  • Closed Thursdays, starting Thursday, Sept. 7
  • Open Saturdays from 8:00 am – 4:00 pm, starting Saturday, Sept. 9.

Book Appointment Now

Tukwila Donor Center

  • Closed Thursdays, starting Thursday, Sept. 14.
  • Open Sundays from 8:00 am – 4:00 pm, starting Sunday, Sept. 10.

Book Appointment Now

Lynnwood Donor Center

  • Closed Wednesdays, starting Wednesday, Oct. 4.
  • Open Saturdays from 8:00 am – 4:00 pm, starting Saturday, Oct. 7.
  • New later Thursday hours from 12:00 – 8:30 pm starting Thursday, Oct. 5.

Book Appointment Now

Bean Box Giveaway Ends Sunday

You still have until Monday, Sept. 4 to get a free Bean Box gourmet coffee sample after you register to donate. Also, don’t miss a chance to win a year’s worth of coffee!

Learn More and Sign Up

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