Ruby’s story: a college project for good

January 5, 2016 at 12:25 pm
Trinity students donate blood

Trinity students after their donations

Ruby De La Cruz is a sophomore at Trinity Lutheran College in Everett studying Communications and Business.

Ruby De La Cruz

Ruby De La Cruz

Ruby had been wanting to organize a blood drive, but with two majors and required courses she wasn’t sure when it might happen. Then she found her motivation. Her Persuasive Messages and Campaigns professor assigned his students a project to put the principles of the coursework into action: run a campaign and craft effective rhetorical messages around it.

It was the perfect opportunity.

I decided this after the Oregon shooting and the [Ride the Ducks] accident in Seattle – our school always prides itself on giving back to the community.

Ruby also has her own connection to blood donation: two years ago, when Ruby was a senior in high school, her mom suddenly began to lose blood.

We didn’t know what was going on – she was really weak, and my mom is never weak.

Her mom spent the night in the hospital, and needed three units of blood to treat unexplained bleeding. Ruby and her sisters started donating their B+ blood as a result.

For her blood drive campaign, Ruby targeted two audiences: people who hadn’t donated before and returning donors. She found that many first-timers were eager to donate but were afraid of needles, so she encouraged them to bring a friend – a blood buddy – and motivated them with facts about blood donation.

One pint of blood can save three lives! People were a lot more open to donating when I let them know why it’s important.

Ruby put up flyers and spread the word over social media, email, and text messages. She used Doodle to sign people up for appointments. The day before the drive, she shared another flyer with information on what to do before (like drink water and eat a hearty meal), after, and during donation.

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Trinity’s first blood drive was a success: 53 registered donors, with 42 first-time donors. This is all the more remarkable because Trinity is a very small college, with around 200 students. Regardless of the numbers, Ruby considers it a win because people wanted to help out.

Trinity’s next blood drive is March 15, and Ruby anticipates more donors without competition from finals or fall athletic commitments.

Just do it! It’s not scary at all. Even if you are scared, you’re scared for like 5 minutes, tops. You’re helping someone who really needs it – I’ve seen it save somebody’s life with my mom.

We don’t know how Ruby did in Persuasive Messages and Campaigns but are guessing she aced it!

You don’t need a class project to organize a blood drive! Learn more about hosting a blood drive with BloodworksNW

Danna’s story: A blood drive coordinator needs blood

November 19, 2015 at 1:54 pm

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Danna Bostwick went in to work one day this past January feeling tired, which wasn’t all that unusual for her – she was a busy master’s student working two jobs.

A colleague noticed that she looked exceptionally pale — “vampire pale” — and said, “I think you need to go to the hospital.”

Danna drove herself to the nearest emergency room, expecting just to get some fluids.

They looked at me and were like, ‘you need blood.’ I was working on half of my blood supply.

She received three units of O+ red cells in 24 hours, and within 30 minutes couldn’t believe how much better she felt.

Danna suffers from Crohn’s disease, a chronic inflammatory condition affecting her digestive system. She knew this inflammation could cause internal bleeding, but didn’t realize the extent. If she had waited any longer to seek treatment for this flare-up, the doctors told her should could have been in trouble.

This transfusion hit close to home. Danna was a regular blood donor until her illness started to take a toll on her iron count, and was frustrated that she could no longer save lives.

Over the years, I just kind of dealt with it. I didn’t donate for a really long time. I’d still try every once in a while, say ‘hey, maybe today will be my day if I eat some steak for breakfast.’

Even before her transfusion, Danna vowed to find another way to help. She thought that a blood drive would be a good fit for Vivaki, the company she now works for full-time. She figured, “if I can’t donate, I can at least bring in maybe 20 people who can,” and reached out to BloodworksNW to set something up.

She’s now organized six drives.

Donor rep Heidi Schaiberger says,

Danna has been supportive about hosting drives whenever we’ve reached out to her and has done a great job recruiting new and existing donors to participate in drives at Vivaki.

Vivaki’s drives usually get 15-20 people, all within the building. The most recent had 26 registered donors and nine new donors, which Danna views as a huge success, considering she thought that everyone who was interested would have already given!

Really when it comes down to it, you just need a space and people who are willing to do it. All the other details, BloodworksNW takes care of. If it seems like a big undertaking, it really isn’t.

And you feel really good at the end of the day.

Like all autoimmune diseases, Danna can only manage her Crohn’s, not cure it. She keeps it under control by following a strict diet and receiving regular IV infusions at Harborview, including iron and low doses of chemotherapy. She can’t be as active as she would like to be, but has enough energy to watch the Seahawks, root for the WSU Cougars, practice yoga, and spend time with her new husband, who she married over the summer after 10 years together.

Despite her vigilance about her health, there’s always the threat of another severe flare-up and the possibility that she’ll need blood again.

Nothing ever made me feel better like getting blood pumped back into me. I’m really glad that there’s people that are willing donate.

You can save lives like Danna – organize a blood drive!

Pink Phoenix paddles to success!

October 27, 2015 at 9:52 am
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Audrey Riggs, Susan O’Gara, and Susan Rogers

Susan Rogers, Susan O’Gara, and Jeannine Keller all make time in their busy lives to volunteer for Bloodworks Northwest in Portland!

They’re also breast cancer survivors, and along with Vancouver/Portland volunteer coordinator Audrey Riggs, are among the 90 women who make up Pink Phoenix, the first all breast cancer survivor (BCS) dragon boat team in the country.

Dragon boats originate in China, where they were paddled for centuries (not rowed, as the ladies will tell you) in races as part of religious ceremonies. Dragon boat racing started to gain popularity in the US 1980s.

Pink Phoenix was founded in 1996 by an avid paddler, who while not a breast cancer survivor herself, saw an opportunity to provide community for women who were. Most races now have separate BCS divisions. “Dragon boating is our sport,” says Audrey.

Twenty “Pinks” paddle, one drums or calls to keep rhythm, and one steers at the till – often Audrey. Pink Phoenix may launch as many as three full boats, depending on the race. Says Susan O, who just completed her 7th season,

Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, we’re growing.

The races take the women all over the world, though the Portland Dragon Boat Festival in their backyard is a favorite.

Susan R. has been paddling for 10 years says,

They try to make paddlers out of us, as we come with all different kinds of medical backgrounds, physical backgrounds, and experience on teams.

Doctors recommend arm exercises in people who have had lymph nodes removed to help with lymphedema, a build-up of fluids that can happen if the lymph system is damaged. Many of the women who have this symptom find that the paddling helps.

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Jeannine and her daughter, Aimee

Jeannine has been a Pink for 4 years, and says,

The paddling is so good for breast cancer survivors, and people currently going through treatment. I’m a huge exercise fan, and I believe you need to exercise all the time. I think spending time with the Pink Phoenix gives you uplifting spirit, and there’s all kinds of support there. It’s important for my journey.

The community is what really makes Pink Phoenix special. Several members have had recurrences, and their teammates are quick to step up to help, whether by preparing meals, running errands, helping with housework or yard work, or stealthily filling someone’s yard with pink flamingos in the middle of the night to cheer her up.

Audrey says,

We don’t sit around and talk about cancer. We talk about competition. We talk about getting stronger, and getting races, and representing. But if we need to talk about cancer, we talk about cancer.

Audrey sees parallels between Pink Phoenix and her BloodworksNW volunteers.

Everyone on Pink Phoenix has a common vision — we want to show there is quality life after cancer.

Sometimes I feel like that about our volunteer team. We have a shared common vision too. People come to volunteer with us for different reasons. One aspect of our shared vision is making lifetime donors.

Susan O. and Jeannine serve as Ambassadors at blood drives. Ambassadors greet, encourage, direct, schedule, coordinate, and educate donors as they arrive.

Susan R. works in the canteen as a donor monitor, caring for donors by serving up juice, cookies, and conversation. She likens the canteen to speed dating: “You get to know some of them quite well in just a 10 minute stretch! That’s definitely the reward for me.”

It’s a great fit for Susan, Susan, and Jeannine: they’re three of the friendliest, most welcoming individuals you will ever meet.

While no one in this group has needed blood, they recognize that many of their fellow survivors have received transfusions: chemo and radiation can affect the cells in the bone marrow that create new blood cells. They enjoy talking with people who have just saved lives.

Susan O. is even a blood donor now – there’s a common misconception that all cancer survivors cannot donate blood.

One of our friends [a Pink] put on Facebook “be nice to me – I donated blood”! I said, ‘what! You can’t do that!’

I’ve been able to donate blood since then, in the last 5 years. I’m delighted that I can help in that way.

Susan R. agrees.

Pink Phoenix, for me, was making lemonade out of lemons, and fulfilling my life with outside opportunities like Bloodworks Northwest is more rewarding for me than what I give back. I’m the winner.

We see it as a “win/win.” We are proud to have the women of Pink Phoenix supporting us!

BloodworksNW needs more volunteers! Learn more at BloodworksNW.org/volunteers

Hannah’s story: Living with Beta Thalassemia

October 21, 2015 at 1:17 pm

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21-year-old Hannah Husom is like many college students: she goes to class, works, and enjoys spending time with her family and boyfriend.

Unlike most, however, she has a rare blood disorder that requires monthly red cell transfusions.

Hannah’s mom noticed that she was jaundiced at birth; her mother’s intuition told her something was wrong. Though most newborns have some yellowing of the skin, Hannah’s didn’t go away. She was always tired, and had a very low blood count.

Doctors thought it might be hepatitis or leukemia, and it wasn’t until she was seven that a new doctor at Group Health finally diagnosed her with Beta thalassemia major, a genetic blood disorder that impacts the body’s ability to produce hemoglobin, the protein that carries oxygen, resulting in anemia.

It’s constantly being tired all the time. I can sleep for 11 hours and still be tired the next day, and then take a nap, and then be ready for bed 2 hours later.

She received her first blood transfusion when she was fifteen, and has been receiving them every four weeks at Seattle Children’s since then – she estimates that she’s received 100.

The transfusions of A+ blood make her feel better immediately.

It’s basically like taking a nap for a week. I have a lot more energy, and my moods start to get better. I feel more positive without even trying. My body temperature gets a little higher – I can almost start to feel it working immediately. My coworkers ask if I’ve been tanning the day before!

Beta thalassemia occurs most frequently in people with Mediterranean, North African, Middle Eastern, Indian, Central Asian, and Southeast Asian heritage. Because it’s a recessive genetic trait, both parents need to be carriers. Frequent blood transfusions can put patients at risk of organ-damaging levels of iron in their blood, and many become sensitized to antigens in donor blood because of the many transfusions they receive. A stem cell transplant is the only cure.

Hannah’s condition is so rare that she doesn’t know anyone else who has it, and most people she talks to have never heard of it.

I want to get the word out. A lot of people brush it off. It’s not cancer, so it’s not interesting to them. I want to have a conversation without it being uncomfortable.

Hannah is very grateful for the blood donors who allow her to live a normal life: she’s studying at Everest college in Everett to become a medical assistant, and can’t wait to be in the field to help others like she’s been helped.

I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for your many donors, and I will always be grateful for those who continuously donate their blood.

Everest is hosting a blood drive on October 27, and Hannah would love to see everyone who is eligible donate.

Want to help patients in our community like Hannah? Schedule your next blood donation.

Northshore Interfaith Alliance celebrates two milestones!

September 21, 2015 at 1:41 pm

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The Northshore Interfaith Alliance is one of BloodworksNW’s longest-running donor groups.

Six times a year (roughly every 56 days, the frequency with which one can donate whole blood), always on a Tuesday, this consortium of Woodinville congregations hosts a blood drive.

On Tuesday, July 7, 2015, the group celebrated the 20th anniversary of their first blood drive.

On Tuesday, September 8, 2015, they registered their 7,000th donor: Sharon Rudd.

Why Tuesday? Says lead organizer Dewey Millar,

I don’t know! It just seems to have worked out. Various churches always seem to have space available. It’s a day the donors can make it in. Day when volunteers are available. It’s worked out to be a good day.

Dewey was a blood donor who joined the Woodinville Unitarian Universalist Church in 1994 after relocating from Honolulu. Over time, he gradually became more and more involved, and is quick to let you know that it’s a group effort.

A pretty big group: the Northshore Interfaith Alliance formed in 1994 as the Cottage Lake Cluster of Churches, consisting of Wooden Cross Lutheran Church, Woodinville Unitarian Universalist Church, Cottage Lake Presbyterian Church, Bear Creek United Methodist Church, and Northshore United Church of Christ.

Some years later, Kol Ami Jewish Congregation, Latter Day Saints Cottage Lake, Atammayatarama Buddhist Monastery, and Blessed Teresa Catholic Church joined the group, and the name was changed to the Northshore Interfaith Alliance.

In early 1995, Wooden Cross (WCL) parishioner Scott Kimball pitched the idea to host blood drives at the various members’ churches at the monthly pastor’s meeting.  The pastors agreed with Scott’s proposal, and the first drive was held on June 9, 1995 at WCL.

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Dewey, Scott, and Carolyn

For the first few years the group organized five drives a year, and later expanded to today’s six per year.

The churches rotate as hosts, and 30-40% of the donors come from the surrounding community outside of the interfaith group. WCL has played an important role, with Scott being the founder and volunteering (and sometimes cooking) at almost all the drives for many years; WCL has so far hosted 26 drives at which 1,509 donors have been registered.

Many of the same volunteers return year in and year out, registering donors and handing out juice and cookies. One of these special people is Carolyn Brackmann, who has been volunteering since the very start! Out of the group’s 115 drives, she has been the donor monitor at more than half.

There’s a comradery, and a level of friendly competition that comes from individuals of different backgrounds uniting for a common goal.

About 3 years ago, LDS Cottage Lake was part of our group but had never hosted a drive. Around the time of 9/11, they put together the Northwest Days of Service. The first drive at their church was on 9/11, three years ago. They had 126 donors — a very big drive, very organized, and a tremendous spread of food: cookies and special drinks, and the donors were excited about that. The other churches were inspired to do something a little special at their drives.

Dewey enjoys greeting all of the friends he has made at these drives over the years .  He has been a AB- plasma donor at the Bellevue Center for many years, but has slowed down recently due to scar tissue buildup.

To the people who donate, I’m very grateful for them to keep coming in. I know that it’s totally voluntary and sometimes it’s a struggle. We’ve been through things in the winter with snow and ice, but people keep coming in, and we are so thankful for that.

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