We’d like to thank Mercer Island High School Senior Meghan Frisch for creating this amazing video highlighting the need for donated blood.
When Molly Olsen was in labor with her daughter Judith in 2006, one of the nurses at Swedish Ballard asked her if she wanted to donate cord blood. She agreed, signed the consent forms, and paid no attention to the collection while she bonded with her baby girl.
Molly didn’t even remember that she had donated Judith’s cord blood until she got the call that she’ll never forget in 2011.
It was the middle of the day. I was walking out to the car, putting my daughter in the car as well. The phone call was real quick: “it’s BloodworksNW. We wanted to let you know that the cord blood you donated has been matched with a 42-year-old man with leukemia.”
She thought at first that she was being asked to donate bone marrow; the situation didn’t hit her right away.
And then she realized the donation had a personal significance too.
I just thought of Michael, and I couldn’t believe that this thing I had done so offhandedly might have saved someone’s life.
Molly’s close friend and colleague Michael died at age 30 from leukemia, the first person in her adult life to pass away.
He was a very dynamic person, a writer and artist, and had just written a play. He made the most of his life, even knowing it was finite in a very extreme way.
Michael kept his illness a secret from Molly and his other friends until just before he went into the hospital; Molly was shocked and devastated when she found out. She recalls that he didn’t seem sick until he received a bone marrow transplant from an unrelated donor.
She moved to an apartment closer to his to help out after his transplant, and when she visited him in the hospital, Michael would take Polaroid pictures and put them up on his wall.
After Michael died in 1997, Molly moved to Seattle.
Today, she’s a Senior Program Manager for a mobile messaging company and enjoys every moment with her grade-schooler: “We have the most fun!” Molly says.
Judith understands that someone out there had a chance to live because of her.
She was a little young to make all the connections, but she knew that something good had happened because she was born. It was really a great moment.
Because cord blood donors are always anonymous, Molly and Judith will never know the outcome, but they’re happy they were able to bring hope to someone who needed help.
I was really grateful that you guys called me. It would have meant just as much to Michael.
Dedication to saving lives runs in Colleen Abrams’ blood:
My mother was a blood donor, and you just pick it up from the family.
When the Mountlake Terrace resident retired from her remote administrative position with University of Alaska Fairbanks three years ago, she was excited to have more time to focus on family and community service. She switched from donating whole blood to platelets, and has become one of our most dedicated and active volunteers – she worked 113 shifts in 2015, totaling 454 hours!
Colleen has scheduled volunteer shifts in Everett and Lynnwood, and fills in at North Seattle as well. She loves the positive people that come in to save lives.
This is one of the most worthwhile organizations to be a part of because of the positiveness of the people. The staff is absolutely marvelous – all the people you get to work with are, both professional and volunteers (including the donors). It’s something to look forward to each day.
She enjoys talking with donors and learning about the issues that matter to them – for example, a man recently talked with her about his son’s experience with autism.
She also enjoys the fun coincidences.
I have only had two people come in with birthdays on February 29th, and both of them came in during the same shift!
Colleen has seen firsthand the lifesaving power of donated blood – her brother-in-law has MDS (Myelodysplastic syndromes), a disease where the bone marrow stops producing red cells.
At one point he had to have four units of blood and one unit of platelets in one sitting. He was getting blood transfusions monthly.
When she’s not volunteering or donating platelets, Colleen feels blessed to regularly travel down to Portland to visit her new grandson, Silas, and go on walks with her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy. She’s active in her church, and enjoys taking her trailer camping – it also gives her a place to stay in Portland when Silas’ other grandma visits at the same time!
She’ll have to miss a few of her BloodworksNW shifts in May when she heads to Haiti to hand out glasses at free medical clinics. It’s her third time going, and she’s found the experience rewarding and eye-opening.
BloodworksNW is grateful to have volunteers like Colleen who care so deeply about their local and global communities on our team.
Want to join the BloodworksNW volunteer team? Learn more at bloodworksnw.org/volunteers
Cecilia Stevens is our Silverdale Volunteer Coordinator! Each year, she writes a special poem for her volunteers to thank them for their time and dedication. We’re excited to present her 2016 poem!
What does a Volunteer do?
By Cecilia Stevens
When I think of a volunteer, I think of you
It is not just one thing, but all that you do!
You are always where the need is, near or afar
Just as the day begins you hop in your car.
You come to our center and mobiles each day
Where you help save lives in a number of ways
You register our donors so they can check in
Thanking each one as the process begins
They come to the canteen for time to refresh
Where you are there to provide the best!
Cookies, chips, drinks and conversations too!
As they leave you provide a big Thank you!
You deliver the blood during the airport run
Making treats, and lunches until the day is done
Admin help behind the scenes, with data entry too
You are the volunteer and this is what you do!
Want to join the BloodworksNW volunteer team? Learn more at bloodworksnw.org/volunteers
As a retired businessman and father, Pete Weiner is used to being busy!
I used to own my own business. I was raising kids, and didn’t have time to read the newspaper, let alone volunteer!
Pete started volunteering 17 years ago after he became semi-retired, and has been with BloodworksNW for three years.
Pete’s main position is as a volunteer courier, transporting everything from blood and office supplies between our Central Seattle donor center and Renton testing facility, with a few stops in between. Because he and his partner, Sharon, travel frequently, he picks up four-hour shifts as needed rather than having a designated schedule, typically, doing one or two a week.
Occasionally, he will also do a ferry run, transporting blood collected at a drive in Kitsap, Poulsbo, or Vashon Island to Renton.
After officially retiring in November, Pete added another role to his plate: he volunteers as an ESL tutor for visiting scientists at Bloodworks Research Institute. Many of our remarkable researchers come from other countries and want to feel more comfortable speaking English, so he meets with them weekly and gives them writing assignments.
It’s a win-win for both parties:
I find it interesting hearing about some of the different projects – I have a background in biology. I’ve attended some of their lab meetings and can sort of follow it.
The Burien resident likes that his courier position keeps him active and makes a difference in our community.
Just getting [to my shift] I will walk 3-4 miles! I walk to the bus, walk downtown, walk up to Central, and probably get walking in between. It keeps me out and active, not looking at a computer. I feel like I’m maybe helping somebody I don’t know.
Pete isn’t entirely sure how he became involved with Bloodworks, but his charm, friendliness, and good nature have been an asset to our organization, says Volunteer Coordinator Colette Glenn. Pete says,
I was looking for some organizations that I have a passing interest in. As one of my semi-retirement jobs, I worked as an EMT. I loved working with healthcare system – I took a year of hematology in college.
When he’s not volunteering, Pete enjoys bike tours in the Pacific Northwest with Sharon and travelling the world – the couple went to New Zealand in February and March. He’s currently volunteering with the Bureau of Land Management at a campground in Utah as a land ranger assistant – it’s his fifth year of doing this – and is looking forward to getting back to his BloodworksNW volunteer shifts in a month.
It’s a way to stay active, learn new information, and get involved in other experiences. I started off as biology teacher and would have liked to go into the field of biology, so I found other opportunities to fulfill my field biologist yearnings. It’s a way of doing things that in our other life we didn’t have an opportunity to do.
[BloodworksNW] is one of the organizations that seems to really foster and support volunteers!