Organ transplant record means more local blood use

January 13, 2016 at 12:59 pm


You may not know that BloodworksNW does all the infectious disease and HLA (compatibility) testing for organ donation our region!

The Pacific Northwest saw a record number of organ transplants in December. We tested for 40 donors, and with 2.5 transplants coming from each donor, this means roughly 100 transplants resulted in Seattle and Portland hospitals.

An organ transplant is a time-sensitive procedure with a narrow window of opportunity. We work with two organizations to facilitate these lifesaving operations: LifeCenter Northwest and Pacific Northwest Transplant Bank. Between these two groups, we support five states: Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Idaho, and Montana.

Donated organs come from individuals at or near end of life: people who have irreparable damage to their neurological system, on life support and without brain activity, but whose bodies are otherwise functional. Blood must flow to an organ for as long as possible to ensure that it’s viable when transplanted to a recipient.

Organs recovered for transplant are most frequently transplanted into recipients in our region. This is in part due to the national allocation system, and in part it reflects the short time that some organs recovered for transplant can survive before transplantation. In Washington, organs are transplanted  at one of four hospitals: University of Washington Medical Center, Swedish Medical Center, Seattle Childrens, or Virginia Mason Medical Center.

This means that when organ transplants happen there can be a spike in local needs for blood. Heart, lung, and liver transplants usually need a lot of blood – the average for a solid organ transplant is about 20 units.

No one can predict when a donor organ for transplant will become available. While elective surgeries tend to slow down during the holidays, organ transplants must proceed within hours of a donor organ being available. “Despite a great turnout by dedicated blood donors in December, we still faced shortages due to demand for unpredictable organ transplants that occurred, says Mark Destree, Director of Transfusion Medicine and Donor Testing Laboratories,

We were expecting to be slow and it wasn’t.

In January we’re still seeing higher than usual number of transplants, several with a higher-than-average usage of blood. For example, five donors were identified on January 6 and 7, 2016 – this is one third of the expected total over a normal month in just two days.

“As it can happen, we all need to be ready,” says Dr. Karen Nelson, co-director of BloodworksNW’s HLA lab.

It’s critical that we anticipate any changes to the demand on our local blood supply. The key to this is a stable inventory, which is where donors like you come in!

Often patients have been waiting years for their chance at a transplant. To cancel their transplants because of blood shortages would be unconscionable.

Make your next appointment at

Danna’s story: A blood drive coordinator needs blood

November 19, 2015 at 1:54 pm


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!

Hannah’s story: Living with Beta Thalassemia

October 21, 2015 at 1:17 pm


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.

Thurston-Mason Advisory Council keeps blood drives rolling!

October 15, 2015 at 3:23 pm
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Members of the Thurston-Mason Advisory Council

BloodworksNW’s Thurston-Mason Advisory Council is comprised of 20 civic leaders, current and former elected officials, and longtime blood donors who raise funds and advance the interests of BloodworksNW in the South Sound.

The council recently hosted a breakfast at St. Martin’s University to raise funds for a new bloodmobile for use in Thurston, Mason, Lewis and Grays Harbor counties. In Mason and Thurston Counties, nearly 50% of the blood donated by community members is collected using bloodmobiles and workplace giving sites.

The new bloodmobile will increase our annual blood supply by 1,500 units – enough to save up to 4,500 lives!

Hunter Goodman, Washington’s Secretary of the Senate, shared his emotional journey at the event in a moving speech, excerpted below.  He was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma in 2012, and donated blood has been an integral part of his ongoing treatment.

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Ralph Munro, Toni Camp, and Sarah and Hunter Goodman

For me, Bloodworks is personal. Bloodworks quite honestly played a significant role in saving my life. Fortunately, I have been a client of Bloodworks on several occasions.

I know, you may be asking yourself how the necessity of a life-saving blood transfusion can ever be perceived as good fortune. Well, by fortunate I mean I was blessed with a great resource, a resource that is dedicated to saving and improving lives all across our region.

For me, Bloodworks and their mission are very real. I have spent the last 3 1/2 years fighting cancer. I have had four surgeries, 26 radiation treatments, and have endured —  and continue to endure — chemotherapy, and during each of these treatment protocols I have required the gift of blood.

Blood from someone I will never know, someone so selfless that they quite literally gave of themselves to save a stranger’s life.

I needed a transfusion during two of my surgeries, and several times post-op I have needed blood after rigorous chemo treatment, as I was left anemic and in dire need of a transfusion, and I stand before you this morning as one of the thousands of lives daily that depend upon Bloodworks and its generous donors for a safe and dependable blood supply.

I stand here this morning, though not by myself – I owe a great deal to the team that has put me back together time and time again: oncologists, surgeons of many different specialties, nurses, physical therapists, radiologists, my friends and family, but the two most significant people throughout my recovery without question have been my dear wife Sarah and my son Grayson, for they have endured the battle that cancer wages against the patient and their loved ones, they have truly been the only ones to see me at my absolute worst, they have witnessed firsthand the many indignities that cancer delivers.

They, like me, were not always certain about what the future held, we were not sure if I could endure one more round, could I take another radiation treatment, another month of chemo, or yet another surgery but we fought like heck and do our best to keep moving forward each and every day and I am truly blessed, but even more blessed to have my wife here this morning so please join me in welcoming my wife Sarah this morning, but perhaps more importantly, please join me in thanking this wonderful woman for loving and caring for me and our beautiful son during this challenge.

But, I am here this morning as a survivor, though still undergoing cancer treatment, but more importantly, I stand here this morning as a humble recipient of your many gifts, and I know more than most of my obligation to encourage each of you to support the mission of Bloodworks, specifically, the acquisition of a new mobile bloodmobile, a bloodmobile dedicated to the residents of the South Puget Sound region, a bloodmobile that will substantially increase donor accessibility while increasing our blood supply.

Throughout its 70 year history, Bloodworks has evolved. From its very inception it has been more than just a repository for blood — it has played a role in innovating, whether through its Bone Marrow Program, its Hemophilia Care Program, or through its revolutionary Diagnostic Labs, to name but just a few.  

Bloodworks has a rich and proud history, a legacy of delivering miracles to our most vulnerable at times of great need.

So as I conclude my remarks this morning, I want to begin by thanking each and every one of you for making a commitment to Bloodworks, for taking the time to be here this morning, for ensuring Bloodworks has the resources they need to serve the people of the Puget Sound region.

I thought I would close this morning with a short quote from Henry David Thoreau, one which I felt was appropriate when describing the vital work of Bloodworks. Thoreau said,

If you have built castles in the air, your work need never be lost; that is where they should be, now put the foundations under them.

I think that Thoreau speaks directly to the rich heritage and proud legacy of Blood­ works, for they have dreamed and evolved from the very beginning, truly building castles in the sky, and here we are this morning delighting in yet another opportunity to build their foundation for yet another castle, this time a mobile castle.


The concept for the new bloodmobile

The breakfast raised $12,000 that day alone, helping us raise over $32,000 in all, but we still have a ways to go.

Do you want to support the Thurston/Mason Bloodmobile? You can contribute in two ways:

  1. Give online – Under “Program to Support,” select “Thurston/Mason Bloodmobile.”
  2. Call (206) 568-3614 and mention the Thurston Mason Bloodmobile.

100% of these donations will fund the bloodmobile.

A huge thanks to Hanson Motors, WSECU, Capital Medical Center, Squaxin Island Tribe, Simpson Lumber, Premera Blue Cross, Providence Health & Services, SW Washington Region, TwinStar Credit Union, and Panorama for sponsoring the event!

Judy’s story: a longtime blood donor receives blood

January 28, 2015 at 9:53 am


Judy McKinney had no complications with her first knee replacement surgery. Her second surgery, too, was performed without a hitch in October, 2014, and she was sent home to heal, expecting this recovery period to be as uneventful as the previous one.

I was home exactly a week and all of a sudden I hemorrhaged.

The blood-thinners doctors prescribed to her to prevent blood clots after her operation caused one of one of Judy’s arteries to rupture, creating severe gastrointestinal bleeding.

She knew something was wrong, but didn’t realize the magnitude at first. Her boyfriend took her back to the hospital, where she stayed in Critical Care for six days.

Her doctors were eventually able to stop the bleed through shots of vitamin K, but she needed 10 units of blood and plasma over the course of treatment to stabilize her health.

Blood came out as soon as it went in. I didn’t know how close to death I was that day. The doctor said I was white as a ghost.

The recovery has been hard, but Judy is grateful to be alive.

She still has a long road ahead of her. Donated blood saved her life, but she is anemic after losing so much of her own, and working to get her iron levels back up. “Every day, I have to push myself. I still am tired. My whole body is tired,” she says.

One of the activities Judy is looking forward to doing again the most is giving blood, as her life-threatening experience has given her a new perspective on blood donation.

I want to thank donors. Thank them for the time and effort. When I used to give blood, I used to think, ‘Is all this blood being used?’ and [a phlebotomist] said, ‘All this blood and more.’

I took 10 units — that’s 10 separate people. You can’t just give 10 at a time.

Judy will be eligible to donate her O negative again a year after her last transfusion, and she’s doing what she can do to encourage others to roll up their sleeves in the meantime.

“So many people I talk to are just, “ooooh, needles!” It’s just one little stick and that’s it.”

The good that you’re doing surpasses any fear you might have. What’s important when you actually live through it, you realize how extremely important it is that we all depend on each other in times like that.

Please give blood to help patients like Judy — schedule your next blood donation at

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