A Super Volunteer With a Simple Reason Why

April 20, 2018 at 10:29 am

The room is filled with giddy anticipation. It’s a gathering of Bloodworks Northwest volunteers and employees eagerly awaiting the guest of honor (and, as it happens, birthday lady): Shirley Stubben, a dedicated Bloodworks volunteer for over 25 years.

Eyes whip toward the door each time someone slips in. Finally, it’s the entrance everyone’s been waiting for.

As she crosses the threshold, Shirley grins at familiar faces but then freezes, momentarily flabbergasted by the full scene: flashing cameras, balloons, banners and a buffet spread. “I wasn’t looking for any of this,” she later said with tears in her eyes.

Super woman! Shirley has been a regular volunteer at six local organizations for over 20 years.

Not one to call attention to herself, Shirley’s motivation for volunteering is simple: “It just gives me a good feeling.” Incredibly, Bloodworks is just one of many local organizations to which she has regularly given time for over two decades, including the Arthritis Foundation, West Seattle Food Bank, Washington Talking Book & Braille Library, and Seattle Goodwill. At age 80, she volunteers between 120 and 150 hours each month.

“I’ve been a volunteer for the biggest part of my life,” she said. “It’s so easy to give money, but to donate time and skills to help a nonprofit I think is just the ultimate.”

Bloodworks CEO and President Dr. AuBuchon thanks Shirley for her dedicated service.

A former data security analyst for Washington Mutual Bank, Shirley first heard about Bloodworks through her company’s monthly blood drives. “They needed volunteers to help monitor the donors, so I started volunteering every month,” she said. Soon, she was recruiting co-workers to pitch in and contributing extra hours at Bloodworks’ Seattle Central Donor Center every Wednesday night.

After almost 20 years as a donor monitor and registrar, Shirley was itching to put some of her other skills to use. “Someone said, ‘Well, the Bloodworks Cord Blood Program needs help,'” she recalled. She started out helping the Cord Blood Program send thank you letters, file, and complete other small projects. Now, she’s back to her data roots, entering cord blood donor information and running reports on the new mothers’ lifesaving gifts.

According to Shirley, the payoff doesn’t only come in the form of balloons and bouquets. “I get gratification when I know that what I do is important to the group that I’m doing it for,” she said. “I like to know what I’m doing is benefiting the department and in turn the organization and in turn the people who benefit from Bloodworks.”

Shirley’s reason for giving is simple: “It gives me a good feeling.”

Speaking of Bloodworks beneficiaries, if there’s one thing Shirley’s as passionate about as volunteering, it might be blood donation. A blood donor herself, her face lights up when she talks about giving blood. “It’s like, why not,” she said, pounding her fist on the table in front of her. “People say ‘I don’t know, I don’t like needles.’ You know what! It only takes less than 60 minutes.”

Shirley makes it a point to share her passion for volunteering with her son, daughter-in-law, three grandchildren and three (soon to be four) great-grandchildren. And after a quarter of a century with Bloodworks, she’s inspired many others to be a little more giving as well. After all, why not?

You can make a lasting impact in the community with the gift of time. To learn more and apply to be a Bloodworks volunteer, visit our website.

Bloodworks First Person: “I think of myself as a cheerleader and goodwill ambassador”

April 17, 2018 at 11:39 am

Welcome to Bloodworks First Person, a series profiling Bloodworks Northwest employees, volunteers and donors by asking them a few questions about their insights and inspirations.

In honor of National Volunteer Week, today’s First Person comes from Chuck Colby, a legendary Bloodworks volunteer, financial supporter and blood donor who recently reached his 900th donation milestone! Keep reading to learn why Chuck happily volunteers on weekends, nights and holidays and the most memorable blood drives he supported.

Name: Chuck Colby
Bloodworks Volunteer Since: 2006

I give time because… By volunteering at Bloodworks, I am in contact with wonderful people, both donors and our fantastic phlebotomists, and my impressions of mankind do a 180 degree turn to the positive!

You’ll find me volunteering…Virtually every chance I get, when I am not working my 40+ hour per week insurance job.  I have a regular shift Saturday mornings at the Bellevue Donor Center, but fill in nights and some holidays at Central, Tukwila, North Seattle and Lynnwood.  I also do blood drives and just had a ball working with Bloodworks rep Cecily at the Sukura-Con convention.

With 900 blood donations under his belt, Chuck’s setting his sights on quadruple digits.

My role includes… Donor Monitor, though I like to think of myself more as a Bloodworks Cheerleader and Good Will Ambassador.  I am pretty good at holding the free hand of first time donors who are nervous, and making them feel relaxed.  I also recruit like crazy all over, including at Mariners games when I am wearing a Bloodworks t-shirt.  Explaining platelets and plasma to whole blood donors to have them try apheresis, is one of my favorite things to do.

My favorite memory as a volunteer is… I could list hundreds,  but thoroughly enjoyed being the donor monitor for the blood drives in honor of Scout in 2015 and Sweet Jane in 2017, two very young warriors that needed many blood transfusions and who inspired me so much, with their courage and the amazing support of their families.

One of the perks of the job is… Besides meeting hundreds of unbelievable donors, many who have become dear friends, the phlebotomists I just adore, and are like a second family to me.

I’d tell someone thinking about becoming a Bloodworks volunteer… Come aboard as you will meet the most inspiring people imaginable, while helping to save the lives of thousands of people.  Can’t top that in my book!

To learn more and apply to be a Bloodworks volunteer, visit our website. Do you know someone who’s making a difference as a part of the Bloodworks community? Send your suggestions for future Bloodworks First Person profiles to feedback@bloodworksnw.org. 

Boeing’s Joe Geck: Donor Evangelist

April 13, 2018 at 11:58 am

He’s been here before. It’s Tuesday, April 10 and 55-year-old Joe Geck of Everett, Washington is donating his 100th unit of blood at a Bloodworks Northwest mobile drive in Boeing’s Mukilteo corporate offices. “I get paid to lay down on the job,” he jokes as the donation begins just after lunch. There’s 80s rock playing on a portable sound system, which brings a smile to Joe. It’s music he grew up with. He asks one of the phlebotomists, “Whose playlist is this? I love it!”

Thirty-seven years ago, Joe started donating at Portland’s Jesuit High School. “Back in high school it was just something you were supposed to do,” he said.

Now the engineering manager has been donating at Boeing for 31 years—and working as a tireless advocate for the simple, life-saving act of giving blood. You could call him a blood donation evangelist. “Here at Boeing they make it so easy,” he said as he bites into an oatmeal raisin cookie when his donation is complete. “As a donor, we don’t think about the impact we have, the lives we save. It’s pretty cool when you think with those 100 donations, I’ve saved 300 lives.”

After giving blood, Joe always asks for a bright-colored wrap. That way, he’s a walking testimonial.

The Boeing Company is another stand-out blood donation advocate. Its history with Bloodworks Northwest goes all the way back to 1944 when it was a founding member of then-called King County Central Blood Bank. Today, Boeing supplies the most employee blood donors in the Puget Sound and the Employees Community Fund of Boeing is a generous Bloodworks charitable contributor. Boeing is also a sponsor of the Bloodworks Ball on May 19.

When he considers blood donation, Joe thinks of his family members who have benefited from the Bloodworks contributions he and other local donors have made over the years. And he thinks about the dinner he and his wife are going to have to celebrate his 100 donation milestone later that day.

For now, there’s one last thing Joe Geck does before he leaves the donation center. As he’s walking out, he notices one of his staff headed down the hall. “Have you donated yet?” he asks, “They’re still in there taking donations.” His co-worker hesitates but then he notices the bright green wrap on Joe’s left arm. “Come on,” Joe said, “It’ll just take a couple minutes.” The co-worker takes a few steps toward the donation center, then makes the decision to donate. Joe Geck, the blood donation evangelist just smiles.

His 101st donation is scheduled for June 5.

A Gift of Blood, Life and Love

April 5, 2018 at 2:58 pm

By Bill Harper

Local donors gave Allison a second life — and an unexpected connection at Bloodworks gave her the love of her life. 

Allison’s heart transplant surgery was supported by 19 units of blood from Bloodworks donors.

“Her name is Sojourner Truth Bush. I say ‘is’ because I keep her with me in my mind all the time, and I thank her every day because I am, in a way, carrying on her legacy.”

That’s how Allison Trimble, 34, remembers the forever 22-year-old Washington State University student who, in the hours after a tragic car accident in 2000, gave her a new heart and what she calls “the gift of a second life.”

Sojourner wasn’t the only person who helped Allison that day–Bloodworks Northwest donors also gave her the 19 units of blood she needed during her transplant surgery to give her the best chance of survival.

***

During her sophomore year of high school, the symptoms of what Allison would later learn was a genetic heart disease were at first all too easy to compensate for and explain away. When she would gasp for air trying to sleep on her back, Allison would roll over to her side. When she had almost-daily bouts of severe nausea in class, the school nurse asked her if she was anorexic and felt safe at home. And even when she was so tired she could barely stay awake in class, alarm bells still didn’t sound. “I learned later this was my body shutting down,” she remembered. “My organs were all shutting down one by one.”

“My organs were all shutting down one by one.”

After months of declining performance in gym class, people around Allison started noticing something wasn’t right. “We were treading water one day and, quite frankly, I think I almost didn’t make it,” Allison said. “I almost couldn’t get over to the side of the pool. And I was breathing so hard I couldn’t really get out on my own.” Allison’s teacher had her sit out of the pool the rest of the day. “You need to go in and get tested for asthma,” she told her.

That asthma test probably saved Allison’s life.

A physician at the local clinic prescribed Allison an inhaler while waiting for the routine CT scan results to come back. Several days later, the scan revealed that Allison’s heart was slightly enlarged and that weekend, her symptoms worsened dramatically. “I really couldn’t move from the couch, and just being awake was difficult. I was getting really dizzy, and anytime I sat up or stood up my blood pressure would just drop.”

After barely making it into the clinic for a cardiac ultrasound that following Tuesday, Allison was admitted to the ICU at Seattle Children’s Hospital. The physicians there ordered an ejection fraction test, which measures how much blood the left ventricle of the heart pumps out with each beat. A result below 40 percent is considered heart failure. Allison’s was 8 percent. “They said to me, ‘We’re shocked you’re actually conscious right now,’” she remembered.

“They said to me, ‘We’re shocked you’re actually conscious right now.’”

Allison was diagnosed with a genetic heart disease called familial cardiomyopathy. After 18 days in the ICU, she was added to the heart transplant list and allowed to return home. “I had a pager at home and I was waiting for the possibility for the call to come that a heart had come in,” Allison said. “That’s when fear started to set into my heart, and into my mind. I had to find a way to be okay with it.”

When that call did come, with Sojourner’s gift and the life-sustaining help of 19 units of blood from Bloodworks donors, Allison survived her heart transplant operation and began her “second life.”

***

Allison met her future husband, Dave, while volunteering with Bloodworks.

Four years would pass from Allison’s transplant date before Bloodworks Northwest would give her another gift.

Back then, she was working at a pizza shop and volunteering for Bloodworks in her free time. “I went to speak at one of their luncheons thanking a group of donors, and my coworker at the time was there with his father being recognized for donating blood several times that year. And that was the moment when I fell in love with him.”

“My coworker was being recognized for donating blood several times a year. That was the moment I fell in love with him.”

Allison Hansen and Dave Trimble weren’t even particularly close at that time, but it didn’t take long for that to change. “The fact that he cared about something that was so close to my heart played a huge role in me deciding that he was for me,” Allison said with a giggle. “So in another personal aspect, Bloodworks has played a huge role in my life.”

The pair married a year later and in 2018 they’ll celebrate their 14th anniversary. According to Allison, her gratitude for the gifts she has been given – from Sojourner, from her blood donors, from her husband, and from her second life – defies explanation. “Their gift,” she says, “their time spent away from work or family to spend time with an uncomfortable needle in their arm has meant a life for me. It’s hard to explain to someone what that means to you other than to just to say thank you, you are amazing.”

Bloodworks First Person: “My mom inspires my work.”

March 23, 2018 at 9:42 am

Welcome to Bloodworks First Person, a series profiling Bloodworks Northwest employees, volunteers and donors by asking them a few questions about their life, insights and inspirations. Today’s First Person comes from Devon Steinbacher, a Bloodworks Cord Blood Laboratory Operations Specialist, donor and volunteer. Keep reading to learn a trick for platelet donors Devon picked up as a phlebotomist and the reason she included Bloodworks in her estate plan.   

Name: Devon Steinbacher
Bloodworks Employee Since: 2013
Role: Cord Blood Laboratory Operations Specialist

My first Bloodworks job was…On Mobile 2 as a phlebotomist out of Georgetown (Seattle). Now I work as a Laboratory Operations Specialist in Bloodworks’ Cord Blood Department. We support public cord blood banking and cancer patients being re-infused with their own stem cells. We also ship cord blood units to transfusion centers and hospitals worldwide, working closely with the National Marrow Donor Program.

I’ve been a blood donor…Since before I started working here. I began donating in 2010-2011, switched to platelets pretty quickly and became a Bloodworks volunteer while I was in school.

My mom…inspires me. She was diagnosed with stage three metastatic lung cancer when I was five years old and needed a lot of platelet transfusions. It was a no-brainer once I figured out how I could give back.

Something that may surprise you is…I included Bloodworks in my estate plans. I know it takes blood and money to ensure that we are able to continue our life-saving work. As a member of the Northwest community and as the daughter of someone who needed blood, I am dedicated to helping Bloodworks continue to grow and save lives.

A trick of my trade is…As a phlebotomist, figuring out donors’ favorite Tums flavors. Platelet donors sometimes have a mild tingling sensation from the anticoagulant during the donation process which can be quickly alleviated with the calcium in Tums.

The one thing I’d tell Bloodworks donors…You come in and you do this amazing thing that’s uncomfortable, but the impact that you’ve had has been so far-reaching but also close to home. It’s very likely that someone knows someone that needs blood products and without our blood donors we couldn’t survive.

My favorite post-donation snack is…Definitely Doritos. Anything salty at all.

Do you know someone who’s making a difference as a part of the Bloodworks community? Send your suggestions for future Bloodworks First Person profiles to feedback@bloodworksnw.org. 

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