Comprehensive Care for the Whole Family

February 1, 2017 at 4:00 pm

The Estell familyDoctors knew something was drastically wrong when Henry Etsell, then one year old, lost two-thirds of his blood during routine surgery. He would spend the next five days at Seattle Children’s receiving multiple blood transfusions and clotting factor to control his bleeding.

Henry’s parents, Chad and Nicolette Etsell, were in for a shock—Henry had hemophilia. Henry’s younger brother, Graham, would later receive the same diagnosis.

Henry EstellFortunately, the Etsells could turn to the Hemophilia Care Program at Washington Center for Bleeding Disorders (WCBD) for help and support. Located at Bloodworks, the WCBD has been a resource for people with bleeding disorders for more than 40 years. The Etsells were among 450 patients treated by the WCBD last year.

It turns out Nicolette is a symptomatic carrier of the hemophilia gene and has mild hemophilia. She goes to the center for her annual physical and other checkups, and Henry and Graham both receive regular care from a team of doctors and nurses at Seattle Children’s who partner closely with WCBD to care for children with bleeding disorders. And thanks to the center’s 24-hour telephone helpline, the Etsells can get advice anytime from hemophilia nurse specialists.

“The WCBD has changed our whole outlook on living with hemophilia,” Nicolette says. “We now have the tools and resources to keep our family healthy and live our lives with the disease just in the background.”

Help families like the Estells—schedule your blood donation appointment today.

Volunteers: A Lifesaving Link

February 1, 2017 at 2:00 pm

Kendra

Kendra was in and out of the hospital because of her sickle cell disease. She contracted meningitis three times, suffered a stroke, and was frequently in pain—all before she turned 13.

Her life changed after receiving her first blood transfusion. Today, more than two decades and many transfusions later, thousands of blood donors have given Kendra continued health and hope.

“When I receive transfusions, I think about the people who spent the time donating and what their story is,” says Kendra, who receives care from Bloodworks Northwest Patient Services department.

Volunteers play a vital role in connecting lifesaving blood with local patients in need. It takes 800 donors a day in the Northwest to roll up their sleeves, supported by more than 65 volunteers who give their time to support this essential process.

Motivated by her profound gratitude, Kendra began volunteering at the Bloodworks Federal Way Donor Center. As a donor monitor in the canteen, she cares for donors post-donation with juice, cookies, and conversation. Kendra also recently completed training that will prepare her to greet and register donors when they first arrive.

Most people never get to meet the fortunate recipient of their donations—Kendra is changing that with a warm greeting and smile for every donor she meets.

Keep incredible people like Kendra going. Schedule a visit to a donor center near you.

Doubling the Odds for Beating Cancer

February 1, 2017 at 12:00 pm

Gina Grein

After six months of strange but explainable health occurrences—low energy, a leg bruise, discolored gums—Gina Grein went to her doctor.

She was immediately sent to the ER where she received four units of blood. A bone marrow biopsy confirmed the worst: Gina had acute myeloid leukemia (AML). The prognosis was grim—10 months to live with no treatment; a 39% chance of survival with standard chemotherapy.

After five months of chemo, Gina’s cancer went into remission, only to return a year later. Her care team at UW Medical Center recommended a progressive procedure: after head-to-toe radiation and transfusions, Gina received a double cord blood transplant donated by two generous moms.

Gina Grein

Success. Relief. Remission.

Twenty months later, Gina is slowly rebuilding her immune system, her energy is returning, and she’s excited to be back at work, if only for a few hours a week. Gina says she is grateful for her care team, the blood donors, and the parents of the now-toddler boys whose donated cord blood saved her life.

“I think about those donors every day,” Gina says. “I’m grateful more people are aware of cord blood donation. Without it I wouldn’t be alive.”

Bloodworks partners with 12 hospitals to collect cord blood stem cells used in cancer treatment.

Help rebuild a life. Schedule your appointment to donate blood today.

Doubling the odds: Gina’s cord blood story

August 15, 2016 at 2:13 pm

gina-healthyIn the summer of 2012, Gina Grein was constantly tired. She thought it was from working two jobs and needing extra rest. In November, Gina noticed a large bruise on her calf, but figured she had just run into something. Her sister had been diagnosed with Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML), and Gina’s focus was on her sister’s health.

Her dentist even noticed that her gums had even changed color, but they felt perhaps a change in toothpaste was to blame. It seemed to go away.

Everything was explainable. I had never been sick in my life.

On New Year’s Eve, Gina went to the grocery store and barely made it home. She recalls sitting down on the couch and waking up six hours later.

Over the next few days, she could hardly eat or get out of bed. It’s the flu, she thought, but a weird flu. After a few days of calling in late or being sent home from work, she asked a friend to take her to the doctor.

Gina’s bloodwork showed a 50% blood loss, but she still thought she had caught a virus.

The doctor said, ‘I don’t think you have the flu. Go to the ER.’ I was like, ‘how can I have a blood loss with the flu?’

She received four blood transfusions over the next four days.

A bone marrow biopsy confirmed the worst: acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Gina was released from the hospital in Puyallup, and sent to Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) the next day.

The prognosis wasn’t great: SCCA oncologists gave her 10 months to live with no treatment, and a 39% chance of survival with standard chemo.

But there was another option: adding a trial drug called “the hedgehog” might up her odds of beating AML to 70%. She would be the first patient at UW on this regimen.

gina-hospital

Gina was hospitalized at UW Medical Center a for seven days straight, with around-the-clock IV chemo. She received more than five months of treatment.

Thanks to the chemo and “the hedgehog,” her AML went into remission for a year but returned.

Doctors put her onto another trial drug. She did’t feel sick as she had been before, but her blood counts were down to zero.

A stem cell transplant would be Gina’s only hope of a cure.

She received blood transfusions every two to three days while doctors looked for a bone marrow match.

Siblings have a 25% chance of matching a patient’s human leukocyte antigen (HLA), the marker that helps your immune system determine what belongs in your body and what’s an invader. Out of Gina’s five siblings, only two were eligible to be considered. One was a partial HLA match, and one was a zero HLA match. There were no qualified unrelated donors in the bone marrow database.

Then her UW physicians decided on a novel procedure: a double cord blood transplant. Gina would receive cord blood from two donors to increase her odds of success.

Cord blood units can successfully engraft with an HLA match that is less exact than the matches required for a bone marrow transplant from adult donors, resulting in lower probability of graft versus host disease.

On December 13, 2014 Gina checked into UW Medical Center for five rounds of chemo and one round of head-to-toe radiation to kill off her bone marrow and immune system, and the next day received two units of cord cells from two anonymous infant boys.

The transplant itself took 40 minutes, 20 minutes per unit. It’s no different from getting blood – the recovery part is the hard part.

Gina now shares an immune system with baby boy #2, and likens recovery to stepping back to infancy:

Every childhood shot is gone, so it’s hard for people to understand that I can’t be around sick people. Chicken pox, measles – I don’t have an immunity to those any more.

Twenty months later, she’s in remission with no evidence of disease. Rebuilding her immune system has been harder than she imagined, but her energy is coming back and she’s excited that she’s able to work a few hours a week at her local Home Depot.

Gina has nothing but gratitude. She feels fortunate to live in an area with outstanding medical facilities like UW Medicine and SCCA.

She’s grateful to the local blood donors who sustained her during her treatment, and to the infant boys – now toddlers – who allowed her to live.

I think about those donors every day, and their parents. I wish you could  write a note to the parents, but I just feel grateful that cord blood donation is now starting to have the awareness that it can to save somebody’s life, because without that I wouldn’t be here right now.

Sickle Cell Disease and blood transfusions

June 17, 2016 at 9:00 am

sickle-cell-blog

Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a chronic genetic blood disorder inherited from both parents. Having sickle cell trait (inheriting the gene from one parent but not the other) is an advantage against malaria, which is why SCD primarily impacts people of African, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Indian descent.

But the disease itself (which happens when someone inherits genes from both parents) is devastating.

When someone has SCD, their red blood cells are shaped like stiff crescents instead of flexible discs. These pointed cells can snag on blood vessel walls, causing blockages that prevent oxygen from reaching tissues, incredible pain (called a crisis), and damage to a patient’s brain, eyes, internal organs, joints, bones, and skin. These complications can be life-threatening.

Approximately 1 in 500 African Americans (100,000 people in the U.S) have SCD, though as many as 1 in 13 African Americans are carriers of sickle cell trait.

Treatment of SCD often includes chronic blood transfusion therapy to increase the number of healthy red blood cells in the bloodstream, even when a patient is not actively sick. Transfusions can reduce the chance of stroke.

Says Bloodworks Research Institute’s Dr. James Zimring,

The more we study the disease, the more we understand that transfusions are needed earlier and more frequently than we have appreciated.

Anyone who receives regular blood transfusions is at risk of developing antibodies against antigens in other people’s blood, called alloimmunization. The more antibodies someone makes, the harder it becomes to find blood they can still receive.

Transfusion for transfusion, patients with SCD are more likely to develop antibodies than someone without it. Although science is working hard on it, no one understands all of the reasons why.

Most of us know that our blood type is either A, B, O or AB, and Rh positive or negative, which correspond to antigens on the red cells, but there are actually hundreds of other antigens in the blood.

Dr. Meghan Delaney, BloodworksNW’s Medical Director for Transfusion Service at Seattle Children’s, says:

When sickle cell pediatric patients get transfusions from our blood bank. they require specially matched red cells. Most patients receive blood that’s matched for ABO and Rh,

Other than matching blood to patients, there is no way to prevent a reaction besides not transfusing. For some patients, this can to lead delays, substandard care, and even death.

BloodworksNW’s Immunohematology & Red Blood Cell Genomics Reference Laboratory performs the extended blood typing and matching for patients in the community. Sickle cell patients also have blood typing done by genotype, or molecular methods, since there tends to be blood group differences in people of different ethnic backgrounds that can make figuring different blood types more complicated.

Dr. Zimring explains:

Antigens tend to be within an ethnic group. You are more likely to be a match to someone who has a similar ancestry as you do. Therefore, the more people who have a similar ancestry that donate blood, the more likely it is that  compatible blood will be available.

Dr. Zimring hopes to uncover why SCD patients are so difficult to transfuse. He and BloodworksNW’s Dr. Krystalyn Hudson are studying the process by which the immune system makes antibodies to transfused red blood cells.

Understanding why sickle cell patients make antibodies at a greater frequency might help scientists understand why any patient might make an antibody.

This awareness will help researchers formulate new therapeutic approaches, which will help both sickle cell patients and others receiving regular transfusions.

One thing is for certain:

Sickle cell disease would benefit from increased resources for delivery of medical care and research.

More donors of all ethnic backgrounds are needed to help patients in our community. Schedule your next donation


Switch to our mobile site