I Know What a Unit of Blood Looks like in a Life.

October 13, 2010 at 2:52 pm

By Elsa Finkbonner

You may not remember me, but a good portion of you will remember my son, Jake Finkbonner. At age five he was playing basketball when he was pushed from behind, flew forward, and hit his mouth on the base of the basketball hoop. His tooth pierced his lip and he was instantly infected with Strep A, also known as flesh-eating bacteria.

He was airlifted from PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham to Seattle Children’s Hospital. His condition was so critical the doctors were unsure as to what they were dealing with. Jake’s head had swollen to twice its normal size and his eyes were swollen shut. My son was unrecognizable. On Valentine’s Day, they took Jake into the operating room for his first surgery; more than 20 would follow in the next 18 days.

During his surgeries, Jake lost much blood. It is estimated that he received as many as 100 units of donated blood during his operations. I don’t know what a unit of blood looks like, but when I look into my son’s beautiful little eyes every day I know what a unit of blood looks like in a life.

So far, Jake has undergone 25 surgeries. He’s just 7 years old and his journey has just begun. At the time, I didn’t realize the importance of blood drives. Next time that you are donating blood, remember what your donation means to people like us. It means a gift of life.

It Is Amazing that Such a Simple (and Enjoyable) Thing Could Be so Life Changing!

October 8, 2010 at 10:37 am

Art Gunderson’s son, Nate Gunderson on the left, is enjoying life with his wife and daughter thanks to blood donors.

By Art Gunderson

I started routinely donating blood in Olympia in 1996 and have always been impressed by the friendly and professional staff and volunteers. I had never experienced or even known someone with a problem that required a transfusion of blood products, but knew how vitally important the blood supply is for many in our region.

Then on April 4th of 2009, my 31-year-old son Nate became seriously ill at his daughter’s 1st Birthday party at our home. At the hospital in Seattle, the doctors determined that Nate had contracted bacterial endocarditis and needed an urgent aortic heart valve replacement.

The disease progressed and a few weeks later he needed several units of blood and another emergency heart valve replacement. The day after his surgery he was transported to Sacred Heart Hospital in Spokane where he was kept alive in the cardiac ICU for two months on the heart transplant list.

On July 5, 2009, Nate received a lifesaving heart transplant. This entire process required dozens of units of blood. Over the four months of his illness I found myself overwhelmed with gratitude for the hundred or so people who had donated blood to save my son’s life.

Today, six months after his heart transplant, Nate is healthy and sharing life with his wife and little daughter, and I am back donating and telling everyone I know to be a blood and organ donor. It is amazing that such a simple (and enjoyable) thing could be so life changing! I am a donor for life.

I Never Thought I’d be at the Receiving End of Blood Donation.

October 1, 2010 at 9:56 am

By Mark Warren

I am a dentist by profession and have practiced over 35 years. In November of 2002 I was really beginning to slow down. My energy was minimal and I had trouble maintaining my professional and personal life as I had before. I was also developing a persistent cough that was continually getting worse.

After many tests, I was diagnosed with a rapidly growing sarcoma. I immediately began intense chemotherapy sessions. My wife and I had been long time blood donors, but I now had my first experience receiving blood. During my three bouts of chemo, I became a frequent visitor to the Blood Center.

To further complicate things I developed a blood clot in my leg and was placed on Coumadin. Murphy’s Law took over my life. While receiving platelets at the Blood Center I fell and began internal bleeding. I was transferred to the ER where I received 17 units of blood. Thanks to the donors, an abundant supply of blood was available.

I had tremendous primary care, a gifted surgeon and wonderful support by caring people in the community. I wouldn’t be here today without the 90 units of blood and platelets that I received.

Recently, our church hosted its first blood drive. We are so thankful to all of my blood donors and wanted to repay their generosity in any way we could. I told my wife that if she would give two units a week, we could be even in less than a year. She preferred the blood drive.

Schedule your own blood donation at a donor center

Looking Back and Looking Ahead

September 6, 2010 at 12:56 pm

By Bob Forgrave

By any measure, this August saw the most successful ever Swim for Life across Lake Washington. From swimmers and kayakers, we had 357 participants who raised $50,000 to fund the testing of 500 additions to the national Be The Match Marrow Registry. We had more teams than ever (80, many with hilarious names), five teams that raised more than $1,000 each, and a finish line overflowing with energy, enthusiasm and music from our own DJ. Is that cool or what?  As I look back on the event, three emotions come to mind:

Champions!

The first emotion is heartfelt thanks for the many who made this possible. Thanks to Scott Leopold for starting the idea of the swim, and thanks to Madeline Froning, Kristina Minear and the crew at Puget Sound Blood Center for personally embracing this swim and connecting it with the resources that only PSBC can offer. Thank you to the volunteers who worked very late and very early to ensure that this event went smoothly. Thanks to Alan Schulkin, who worked behind the scenes to raise many thousands of dollars for the cause. Thanks to Pam Gray and Rochelle Alhadeff at Chat with Women Radio Show for discussing the swim with us, to Christie Johnson of King 5 News for actually jumping in the water with us and to the 357 participants who made this a year to remember, in spite of the weather.

Puget Sound Blood Center President Dr. Jim AuBuchon and Swim founder Scott Leopold

The second emotion is a renewed since of purpose thanks to the number 500. Who will those 500 new bone marrow registrants be now that their testing is paid? Whose lives will they save? After the college roommate of one of my team members was suddenly diagnosed with leukemia, bone marrow became more personally relevant than ever. I know who one registrant will be. I signed up two weeks ago, and all it took was swabbing my cheek and filling out a three-page form. The only painful part was filling out that form! Only 499 other prepaid slots left…

The third and final emotion is the excitement that comes from fine-tuning a well-running engine. The swim was this good this year because we did a post-mortem last year and tweaked it. We’ll be doing that again soon for next year, seeing if we can top even this year’s Swim for Life across Lake Washington. If you want to help make the swim even better, drop me a note and we’ll discuss it!

Allison’s Story: I Might not Have Survived if I Had to Wait Much Longer

August 16, 2010 at 6:51 pm

Allison Trimble’s is alive thanks to a heart donor and a family’s selfless decision.

For most teens, sophomore year in high school revolves around football games, talking on the phone and cramming for tests. Allison Trimble’s sophomore year took a different direction.

After experiencing exhaustion while trying out for the swim team, Allison went to the doctor for an asthma test. A routine chest x-ray showed that her heart had swollen to four times its normal size. She was battling a genetic heart illness called familial cardiomyopathy.

After 18 days in intensive care at Children’s Hospital, Allison was listed on the heart transplant waiting list and sent home to wait for a donor. On March 5th, while coming to grips with a tragic loss, a Northwest family consented to donate the organs of their loved one.

Puget Sound Blood Center’s HLA/Immunogenetics Laboratory technicians began analyzing blood and tissue samples to identify matches between the donor and those waiting for organ transplants. Allison was one of the matches. “I was so lucky. The disease is so rapid, everything happens so quickly that I might not have survived if I had to wait much longer.”

Allison now volunteers to share her story with the Blood Center and a local organ donation organization where she uses her experience to provide emotional support and education to donor and recipient families. “I feel I have a responsibility to spread the word and do everything possible to let people know. I want people to know that because someone donated, I can live.”

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