Despite Harvey, Donor Perseveres to Save Child’s Life

August 30, 2017 at 9:32 am

IMG_0680

When Melissa Hernandez learned a child with leukemia urgently needed her stem cell donation, she immediately booked a flight to Houston, Texas—home to the closest hospital that could perform the procedure.

There was just one problem: Hurricane Harvey was ravaging the Texas coast. As water poured into Houston, it became clear Melissa’s donation wasn’t going to happen. At least, not there.

Melissa initially joined the National Marrow Donor registry to help her mother. But to her surprise, she wasn’t a match (in fact, most patients who need marrow transplants do not have a familial match). When her friend’s son needed bone marrow, she again wasn’t a fit. “I just kind of left it at that,” she recalled.

She all but forgot about being a registered marrow donor until she received an email earlier this year. It was an alert from Be The Match, asking her to donate for an anonymous young child undergoing cancer treatment.

Melissa flew to Houston for the first time to undergo a bone marrow collection under anesthesia from the back of her pelvic bone. “I figured since I’ve had four kids naturally, it wasn’t going to hurt,” she said. “Bone marrow donation is not something you recover from immediately, but I’d do it again.”

Her willingness to help was tested again last week, when she received a request to help the same child by donating peripheral blood stem cells to jumpstart bone marrow production. “I got an email saying the child was in the hospital, relapsed, and needed my help right away,” she said.

The only thing in her way? An unprecedented tropical storm.

IMG_0700

When natural disasters like Hurricane Harvey strike, local hospitals rely on organizations like Bloodworks to meet the demand for blood components. What many people don’t realize is the shipments aren’t just for trauma patients. Many of the Northwest-donated pints help fill the gap left when donors in the disaster area can’t reach their nearest donation center or mobile drive.

And when precious resources like stem cells can’t be flown out, sometimes donors are flown in.

On Monday, Bloodworks—a partner with Be The Match program as a stem cell donation center, received a call to see if they could help Melissa complete her donation. Peripheral blood stem cells are donated through a process called apheresis: a machine draws blood from one arm, extracts the cells it needs, and returns the remaining blood components back to the donor—much like donating plasma or platelets.

Bloodworks’ apheresis staff responded with an emphatic “Yes!” In a heroic effort, the team completed what is usually three weeks of paperwork in just one day, clearing the runway for Melissa’s donation.

Melissa completed her donation at Bloodworks yesterday morning. It packaged and shipped on a red-eye flight last night. And today, it was received by the hospital treating the child in need.

IMG_0707

When Melissa’s children asked her why she goes to such great lengths to help someone she doesn’t know, her answer was simple and heartfelt.

“I said, ‘If you were sick like that, I would appreciate anyone who would do the same thing for you.’”

Despite tragedies like Hurricane Harvey, Melissa says donors—and opportunities to donate—give her hope.

“Just like down in Houston, how everyone’s helping each other,” she said. “I like to think of it as, humanity’s not lost. In spite of everything that’s going on in this world right now, if more people realized we could help each other just be human, it would make the world a better place.”

Reading Hurricane Harvey headlines, but not sure how to help? Bloodworks sent emergency blood shipments to Houston and Dallas. Help us restore our inventory and prepare to support communities in need: register to give blood today.

Meet a Blood Donation All-Star

August 24, 2017 at 1:47 pm

CI5G0101 (2)

John-Paul Europa likes to joke about his sports aptitude as a kid.

“I won the ‘Most Inspirational’ award many times as a youth, which is code for ‘Hey, you’re not that good…but you try as hard or harder than anyone else,’” he said with a laugh.

Despite often landing on the bench, he loved being on a team. And though he didn’t know it then, his enthusiasm for sports prepared him to save countless lives as a blood donor, collector and administrator.

Donor
It started with a high school sports medicine class. “It was a great opportunity to start learning about the healthcare industry and get experience,” he said. “I found myself on the bench during sporting events, but I thought, ‘Hey, I have a purpose here.’”

The class also regularly organized blood drives which, John-Paul admitted, were a great way to get out of school. “It was easy for me to sign up and donate blood, and miss class and have a good reason to do it,” he said.

The blood donation habit stuck. As a student at the University of Washington, John-Paul donated regularly. To date, John-Paul has made 98 lifetime donations of whole blood and platelets.

Platelet Machine

Collector
At UW, John-Paul knew he was interested in a healthcare career, but didn’t know which path to take. Drawing on his sports medicine experience, physical therapy seemed like a natural fit. That is, until a new field caught John-Paul’s eye. “I interned as an athletic trainer for two years and was exposed to UW’s nursing school,” he said.

A seed was planted. John-Paul graduated with a degree in psychology and set his sight on becoming a nurse.

His first job out of college was a step in the right direction: he became a Bloodworks Northwest phlebotomist, and collected blood at mobile drives. John-Paul remembers particularly enjoying working with blood donors and volunteers. “We make the experience for the donor as simple as possible to alleviate the stress and first time nerves of donating blood,” he said.

Administrator
John-Paul went on to earn a formal nursing degree and landed a pediatric oncology nursing job at Seattle Children’s. ”It was a difficult but very rewarding experience,” he recalled. “It was a daily reminder of the importance of blood donation, not only having experienced donating and collecting the blood, but seeing the process of how to administer the blood safely and the young patients being helped.”

Today, John-Paul works as a registered nurse for Northwest Kidney Centers where blood transfusions are vital for many dialysis patients. Looking back, he said his experiences have given him a greater appreciation for the blood collection process and our generous community of blood donors. “It’s an elaborate process to make sure that patients get blood safely,” he said. “We can’t do any of this without the donor.”

No matter which part of the blood donation process you support, take it from John-Paul: we’re all on the same lifesaving team.

Want to be a blood donation MVP? During the summer months, local patients need your blood more than ever. Register to give today. 

Why We Need Diversity: A Message From Our CEO

August 19, 2017 at 10:32 am

The following message was sent to Bloodworks Northwest staff by President and CEO James P. AuBuchon. Many employees were touched by his message, which Dr. AuBuchon agreed to share here. 

Donor and Tech

Dear Colleagues –

In following current events today, it’s impossible for me not to be disturbed by the harsh tone of public discourse. Although I would not bring partisan politics into our lifesaving work, I do want to offer a few reflections about some of our own core values. Diversity. Respect. They’re cornerstones of who we are, what we believe, how we act, the way we treat those around us, and how we perform our mission every day in Northwest communities.

Diversity brings such joy and richness to life that I am perplexed by those who shun it. I get that differences can make us all feel uneasy sometimes. But staying inside a small comfort zone prevents us from experiencing some of life’s deepest learnings.

Understanding, listening, working with and serving people whose life experiences are differ from our own brings meaning and depth to our lives. If we want to interact with someone who looks like us, acts like us, thinks like us, talks like us… we just need to stand in front of a mirror. But hearing about the experiences and journey of others who arrived from a different path – usually by a combination of chance, place of origin, ethnicity, family, opportunity and events – broadens one’s perspective. It offers us a window into the experience of a different life, shared humanity, and the human soul. It makes us better. And when people truly connect with us, in return, it can do the same amazing thing for them. “Them and us” is a circle, not a line of division.

Not only do we respect diversity, we need diversity to succeed. For example, in supporting everyone (and anyone) who needs our services, we also depend on donors from that person’s community to ensure the availability of the most-compatible component. To that end, we encourage and welcome the engagement of all ethnic communities living in places we serve. We are actively reaching out to them, and by partnering with us, they become part of the fabric of our community.

Likewise, in our workplace we need the talents, knowledge and insights of people from a wide variety of backgrounds to ensure we have the best opportunity to solve the problems we face. Respecting and honoring differences in experience takes us across many dimensions of life. Age, gender, language, geography, history, culture, food, sexual orientation or identity, economic status, skills. Respecting our differences opens the door for everyone’s contribution to be recognized. Sometimes, those with a perspective most different from our own are the very people who understand something that we are missing. They can provide a piece that leads to a solution. For me, the ability to respect others and to recognize their way of seeing the world comes in part from being comfortable with my own logic and conclusions. That, and remembering my own humanity. I don’t know about you, but what I know today is almost all stuff I didn’t know at some point. Having conversations where others can participate and be heard leads to better outcomes. That’s why respect matters. We all benefit. We can help each other be our “better selves.”

I urge you to talk with your teammates about all our shared values – Achieve excellence; Seize opportunity; Think critically; Demonstrate respect; Act with integrity – what they mean to you, and how we can best live them every day as we fulfill our lifesaving mission.

When times are challenging and unsettling, it is our values that will see us through. Holding them close, they will take us to a better future.

Jim

 

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.

DeAnn

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.

Twins

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.”

TwinswithMariners

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.

Lisa Sentman 2
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.

Hairy Cell

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.”

Lisa Sentman 1

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.”

 

Switch to our mobile site