Why I Give Blood: “You Just Never Know”

August 16, 2017 at 1:28 pm

Lots of companies encourage their employees to get involved with local charities and non-profits. It’s a great way to give back to their community. Some companies encourage their workers to run in a local 5k, some are invited to plant a tree, some even answer the call to serve dinner at a local shelter. But rarely do you find volunteers who have a deeply personal connection to the non-profit they support.

Not like DeAnn Batty.

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DeAnn is an account manager at Cigna, a Connecticut-based insurance company. Seattle-based non-profit Bloodworks Northwest is one of her accounts. Cigna is a Premiere Sponsor of Bloodworks Northwest.

But that’s not why DeAnn is a big supporter of Bloodworks and especially their annual fundraising event called Swim for Life, happening August 25 in the waters off Seattle’s Seward Park. DeAnn supports Swim for Life because of her twin ten-year-old sons, Mason and Justin. And because for DeAnn, “You just never know when you’ll need blood.”

In October of 2007, DeAnn gave birth to Mason and Justin Batty. They were born prematurely – very prematurely. Mason weighed only 2 pounds, 1 ounce. Justin weighed even less, 1 pound, 13 pounces.

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The infants were in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Swedish Hospital for 87 and 99 days. Each little boy needed multiple blood transfusions to survive. Mason received four from Swedish and Justin needed five transfusions, all from Bloodworks. Today, DeAnn Batty says, “I’m so grateful for the services provided by Bloodworks that not only supports us but the whole community as well.”

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Now, DeAnn’s boys are ten years old. They live, breathe and eat anything that has to do with the Seattle Mariners and they can’t get enough time at Safeco Field. But on August 25 you’ll see them at Swim for Life at Seward Park because for DeAnn, “Supporting Bloodworks is easy.” She also wants to thank anyone who’s ever donated blood at Bloodworks.

Today, Mason and Justin spend their summers making YouTube videos. And DeAnn is a Bloodworks regular donor. She’s been donating for four years now, because, as she says, “You just never know when you’ll need a place like Bloodworks. You just never know.”

To learn more and sign up for Swim for Life, an open-water swim on Aug. 25 benefiting Bloodworks’ lifesaving research and blood collection programs, visit swimforlife.bloodworksnw.org.

Saving My Own Life: A Blood Donor’s Story

July 24, 2017 at 4:45 pm

You hear it all the time: giving blood saves lives. And it’s true! But did you ever consider by giving blood, you might save your own life? That’s what happened to Lisa Sentman, a mom, speech pathologist and caretaker from Sammamish, Washington.

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Lisa at home with gifts she received from concerned friends. 

The Tip of the Iceberg
Lisa showed up to donate platelets on May 8. But when her phlebotomist pricked her finger, something was off. “He said, ‘Sorry, you can’t donate today, your numbers are too low,’” Lisa recalled. “I said, ‘What does that mean?’”

It meant her iron levels were down, which Lisa found odd. “I thought, OK, I already take a multivitamin, I already eat a lot of spinach, there’s not a whole lot more I can do.”

Lisa messaged her doctor to see if she should start taking iron supplements, and from there, things started moving quickly. Her doctor called her in for a blood test–and then another one. “She got the numbers the second day and said, ‘I want to see you.’” Lisa’s platelet, red blood cell, and white blood cell count were extremely low, and her spleen was enlarged. She went in for a bone marrow biopsy next, and waited.

An Unexpected Diagnosis
On May 22, just two weeks after Lisa attempted to donate blood, her doctor delivered the diagnosis: hairy cell leukemia. It had been growing in her body for an estimated 6-12 months.

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An image of hairy cell leukemia on a lab slide. 

Lisa recalled lying awake in bed the nights immediately following the diagnosis. “I thought, ‘There’s this thing lurking in me,’” she said. “It would be OK during the day, but at night when I couldn’t sleep, I knew those cells were dividing and dividing and dividing.”

Looking back, Lisa said there were signs something wasn’t right. “I was very tired, but thought that was from my job,” she said. “I have always bruised easily, but I had half a dozen bruises on my leg at a given time.”

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Lisa during a chemo treatment at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance

A Path Forward
Fortunately for Lisa, though hairy cell is a chronic condition, it’s also one of the most treatable forms of leukemia. On May 30, she started the first of five two-hour chemo sessions, and today, she has an 85-95% chance of going into remission. Incredibly, within a month’s time, Lisa went from being a hopeful blood donor, to a cancer survivor.

Though it was a whirlwind month, Lisa said the experience had a long-term impact. ”My lifestyle has changed, my perspective has changed,” she said. “I want to enjoy life more, slow it down, enjoy my family.”

She added, “I feel very blessed, very fortunate.”

 

A Fond Farewell to a Line Dancing Bloodworks Legend

July 17, 2017 at 10:05 am

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Velma Brooks is someone you remember. Bubbly and bright, she instantly puts you at ease. Indeed, over her years at Bloodworks Northwest, she made friends from all walks of life, including canteen monitors and pioneering platelet researcher Dr. Sherrill Slichter.

Last month, after 52 years, Velma retired from her role as Technician III in Bloodworks’ Product Manufacturing and Control Department. Her job? “It’s hard to explain,” she said. “You have to see to understand.” A quick tour through the labratory floor where blood is tested, separated into components, and prepared for shipment, reveals her decades of experience—and the advancements in transfusion medicine.

An Unexpected Career
Velma moved to Seattle from segregated Louisiana in 1964, a young, newly-married woman with a high school diploma in hand. She fell into the healthcare field almost by accident, filling in as a Bloodworks canteen worker while her sister-in-law took a maternity leave. Her sister-in-law never returned, and Velma stayed—and stayed. “I did the coffee making, the chocolate, put out the cookies, and of course, cleaned up the machines,” she said.

After returning from her own maternity leave in 1968, Velma was offered a role in what was called the “Plasma Department.” “And I said, yes!”  She had considered pursuing an office job, but thought better of it. “I’m so glad I didn’t . . . I don’t like sitting, I don’t like doing a lot of paperwork. I like being on the floor working with my co-workers.”

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A Pioneering Platelet Partner
In 1970, Velma quietly supported Dr. Sherrill Slichter’s pioneering platelet research, which lead to significant advancements in platelet transfusion. She prepared the platelets according to Dr. Slichter’s specifications, carefully spinning and counting RPMs. “That was a very interesting time,” she said.

She stayed interested. Just three years ago, Velma was certified to run BacT inoculations, a process that detects bacteria in blood cultures.

According to Velma, Bloodworks has come a long way since those early days. Back then, “We would just collect the blood, receive it, and use it as whole blood,” she said. “As years went on, they started developing different types of processes for platelets, cryoprecipitate, different types of components you could utilize from a unit of whole blood.”

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Rest, Relaxation, and Line Dancing
After over half a century in one place, it can be hard to image the next stage of life. To test the retirement waters, Velma took a staycation and visited her local recreation center. “The person in charge at the front desk, Joy, told me about different activities—line dancing because I did that for a while,” she said. “I met with Jonathan, and he’s going to show me how to use a computer like you’re supposed to, with folders.”

Full of line dancing and neatly organized computer folders, Velma’s future looks bright. But for the last 52 years, she said she’s glad to have called Bloodworks Northwest home. “I liked my coworkers. People here are nice. . . It’s like you belong. I wouldn’t have wanted to work in any other department.”

The Key to This Friendship: 100 Blood Donations & Counting

May 18, 2017 at 4:36 pm

What makes donating blood even easier? Having someone with you every step of the way.

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Edie and Richard are longtime friends with something special in common: they have both donated 100 units of blood with Bloodworks Northwest.

The secret to their dedication? Each other!

Edie and Richard met at work and discovered they both liked to donate blood around lunchtime. When their jobs eventually took separate paths, they continued their dine-and-donate tradition.

“And that’s what we do now,” Edie said. “Every two months, we check back: ‘Hi, let’s give blood. Let’s eat lunch.”

Edie started donating as a college student in the early 70s, while Richard became familiar with blood drives during his time in the military. Today, they count Bloodworks Northwest staff and volunteers as old friends.

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According to Edie and Richard, the key to consistent donation is a great support system—and some healthy competition, too.

“I think you can be a lot more consistent if you have someone that’s depending on you to be there,” Edie said. Richard added— “especially if she’s two pints ahead of you.”

When asked why they keep donating blood, Edie and Richard reflected on every individual’s lifesaving potential.

“It makes a big difference in somebody’s life,” Edie said. “Here you can donate something that isn’t money and you just grow it back. It’s no harm, no foul—a real nice kind of a deal.”

“It’s a fairly painless way of being a good citizen,” Richard said. “And you get free cranberry juice.”

Commemorating their 100-unit milestone, Edie and Richard added two golden leaves to the Tree of Life display at the Bloodworks Central Seattle Donor Center. With this honor, they join an elite group of donors uniquely driven to help people in their community.

What’s next for Edie and Richard? The two friends vow to continue donating—after all, it’s not every day you can save a life on lunch break.

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Blood of Champions: Mr. Sounder’s Donation

April 21, 2017 at 3:35 pm

 

RCR_5499On a sunny, mid-April Thursday, Bloodworks Northwest confirmed what has been rumored for years: 15-year Sounders veteran, Zach Scott does, indeed, bleed rave green. While startling for some on hand at the downtown Seattle donation center, it will come as no surprise to fans of the MLS Champion.

When 3-year-old Jane was diagnosed with stage IV kidney cancer on St. Patrick’s Day, friends like Zach and Alana Scott asked her family how they could help. The family had a simple answer: donate blood and platelets. The Scotts already understood the vital role donors play in the fight against cancer as they have another family friend with a daughter fighting the disease. Eleven-year-old Avery Berg has been kicking brain cancer since last August. Her mother Kristie recently explained, “Avery has received three platelet transfusions just this week and countless platelet and blood transfusions since August. We literally couldn’t do this without donors.”

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Jane

Zach and Alana scheduled their visit, rolled up their sleeves, and made their donation in honor of Avery and Jane. They encourage everyone to donate the gift of life, “Sounders fans have the biggest hearts and I know they will answer the call to support these young warriors in the fight of their lives.”

Each pint of blood donated will go towards helping patients like Avery, Jane, and other tiny warriors. And as Mr. Sounder himself exemplifies, anyone can make a difference.

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