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 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.

Jaime’s story: saved by blood and cord blood donation

March 14, 2016 at 11:18 am
Jaime Scaggs, in red, poses with other members of Team Jaime.
A friend gave Jaime this monkey on the day she was diagnosed; the friend heard the news and left it at Jaime's house for her to find when she got home. This monkey has been with Jaime through every treatment and visit to the hospital, and brought great comfort to her when she was scared and the outlook was uncertain. Jaime brought her monkey to the drive to comfort her friends and former colleagues who were nervous about donating.
This special wrap was done by Juliette for our last donor of the day- the only walk-in, and unaffiliated with the group. He just happened to come across the drive while at the Columbia Center and decided to save lives.

Jaime Scaggs had just turned 39 when what she thought was a cold turned out to be Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML). Jaime says,

Your life turns upside down when you hear CANCER. Everything changes for you and your family in an instant.

AML affects the body’s ability to produce red blood cells, white blood cells, or platelets. It progresses rapidly, and can spread to the brain and spinal cord, skin, and gums.

Over the next year I underwent three rounds of chemotherapy, total body irradiation, months in the hospital, hours and hours of blood and platelet transfusions, all leading to a lifesaving cord blood transplant.

The intense chemotherapy to treat the cancer destroyed Jaime’s bone marrow. She needed a stem cell transplant to replace her immune system but wasn’t able to find a compatible bone marrow donor. Fortunately, a new mom had made the decision to donate her baby’s umbilical cord blood to a public bank 12 years earlier, and this donation was a match for Jaime.

On March 14, 2014, Jaime received her lifesaving stem cell transplant.

The journey doesn’t end there.  This battle results in your body being unable to produce your own blood cells (red/white/platelets) while you recover, sometimes for years.

There were extended periods of time when I had daily transfusions.

Jaime received more than eight gallons of blood components over the course of her treatment.

Jaime and her family, friends, and co-workers (“Team Jaime”) have participated in The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Big Climb at Columbia Tower in Seattle for the past three years. Just over a year after her cord blood transplant, Jaime completed the climb. She is one of the honorees at the 2016 event on March 20.

Team Jaime hosted a blood and bone marrow drive at Columbia Center on February 20 to raise awareness about the need for blood and bone marrow donors.

The drive registered 34 donors, with 15 first-time donors, and added eight potential bone marrow donors to the Be The Match registry.

Jaime is grateful for everyone who donated at the drive and the 64 people who saved her life during her treatment for AML.

This all would not have been possible without people just like you taking the time to make a difference by donating blood and platelets and the work of Bloodworks Northwest.

Jaime is proof blood donation saves lives! Schedule your next donation or learn more about organizing a blood drive.

A platelet disorder leads to bleeding: Jen’s story

February 23, 2016 at 1:00 pm


Jen Schmitt is the type of person who always puts others before herself.

Her friend Erin Nissen says,

Jen is the most giving and caring person that I have ever known. If I’m having a difficult time, she’s the first friend that I call. She remembers little things. If you say there’s a type of wine you like, before you know it, she’s sent it to you in the mail. She’s so thoughtful.

The Harborview cardiac ICU nurse started having abnormal bleeding in her urinary tract at the end of November, 2015. It wasn’t profuse, but enough to be a concern.

Jen visited the doctor multiple times and had imaging performed to try to figure out where the bleeding was coming from. The week before Christmas, her doctors put her under anesthesia to investigate with an internal scope. Ironically, that’s when the real trouble started.

Jen has a rare genetic platelet disorder called Glanzmann Thrombasthenia. When she bleeds, her platelets adhere to the site of the injury, but don’t effectively clump together to stop the bleeding. Her tissues are easily irritated, so the ordinarily harmless scope used in the procedure caused an injury.

Big blood clots formed, and clung to her bladder wall. The clots would break off, causing bleeding, spasms, and excruciating pain, which then caused more bleeding, clotting, spasms, and pain – an ongoing cycle of misery.

She was admitted to UW Medical Center on Christmas Eve.

Jen’s parents and close friends have been by Jen’s side through the entire ordeal, and can’t even count the number of platelets and red blood cell transfusions she’s received – Jen gets three or four units of platelets with every infusion of NovoSeven, a drug that helps her blood clot.

Because of her bleeding disorder, Jen has needed periodic blood transfusions throughout her life, and as a result has built up antibodies: there are only eight people in Western Washington whose blood and platelets she can receive.

It’s upsetting for Erin to watch her hilarious, generous, and generally private friend accept help from others and face the unknown – no one can tell when this ordeal will stop or what the long-term effects will be.

One comfort is that the blood is there:

It makes her teary-eyed – she can’t believe complete strangers would come in and donate their time and themselves.

Jen’s coworkers have rallied, visiting her in the hospital, bringing her snacks, and sending messages of support.


Harborview already hosts regular blood drives, and several of Jen’s colleagues have come forward to champion extra drives in February.

Many of her coworkers at Harborview are stepping up to donate blood and platelets in her honor, either at a drive or at our Central Seattle and Federal Way donor centers. Even though they may not be a match for Jen, they know that countless other patients in our region depend on their gifts of blood components.

Jen was finally able to be discharged on February 11th and is recovering with her parents in Olympia. She’s able to find the positive in the whole experience:

She’s always been an amazing nurse and amazing patient advocate – always trying to see things through the eyes of the patient. This has shed more light on how the patient has it in the hospital. It’s giving her greater passion for her profession as a nurse.

Jen’s coworkers at Harborview are hosting another drive in her honor on Thursday, February 25, 2016. Patients like Jen depend on your donations every day.

Pam’s story: surviving lymphoma with the help of donated blood

January 19, 2016 at 2:01 pm

pam-sowersWhen your doctor tells you that you need to get to the hospital in Seattle before rush hour traffic hits and to pack a suitcase, because you’re going to be there for a while, what do you grab?

I was so confused and ill that every time I kept thinking, ‘I need underwear,’ but I didn’t know what to do, so I’d get another chilled bottle of ice water.  I ended up at the hospital with lots of cold water and no underwear!

In July 2014 Pam Sowers was diagnosed at UW Medical Center with an aggressive form of lymphoma and a small brain tumor. The Olympia-area teacher had been having symptoms for two or three months before that: facial numbness, poor eyesight, and constant exhaustion.

Aggressive cancer needs aggressive treatment, and the rigorous chemotherapy Pam received at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance took a toll on her blood.

They were taking blood draws three times a week. Several times, I would finish with my blood draw and be told, ‘you have to go upstairs and have them give you some blood.’ I wouldn’t get home from an 11 a.m. appointment until 10 p.m. at night because I needed so much blood and platelets.

She received more transfusions than she could count.

I don’t know what platelet levels were when I had the various transfusions, but I do know that when I needed whole blood I would be exceptionally tired and I would not know why I was tired: I was a patient, not the doctor! I would find myself exhausted beyond the usual levels of fatigue.

Often the transfusions would be several units. After receiving the first unit, Pam would feel like she didn’t need the second, but knew it was necessary.

Pam soon realized that donated blood was playing a large part of her recovery from cancer. Frustrated that she could would never be able to donate blood because of her lymphoma, she began to encourage everyone she knows to donate.

It brought me to tears, because I thought somebody somewhere around the Seattle area cared enough to save the life of someone they didn’t even know, and they had no idea that’s what this blood was going to be doing.

Pam just celebrated one year as cancer-free and had her first appointment at the survivorship clinic on December 11, 2015. She has started receiving her first vaccines to restore the immunity that chemo wiped out, and is enjoying being back home on Puget Sound, 30 minutes outside of Olympia.

While Pam had to give up her job as a college English as a Second Language instructor, she hopes to get back into teaching again – perhaps conducting a community college course on Alice in Wonderland, a subject on which she has considerable expertise.

One thing is for sure: she’ll approach her next adventure with a new outlook.

 The things that used to scare me no longer have that effect on me. It ain’t cancer, I don’t care.

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