Hitting the Road to Donate (Part Four): The Unsung Roadies of Puget Sound Blood Center

April 26, 2010 at 9:53 am

Guest Blog Post by Steven Pogge

Thanks to Steven Pogge for chronicling his mission to donate at all 11 donor centers in Western Washington, and for acknowledging staff and volunteers at each center. In this post, he honors two Mobile Assistants: Tom Plantenberg and Dan Deyour.

There is a small group of people with the Blood Center that have been given the title of Mobile Assistant or M.A. for short. These are the men and women who are in charge of driving to, setting up and tearing down the mobile drive. I like to think of them as the Unsung Roadies. They are a combination of many things, keeper of the supplies, interior designers of the draw area, long haul truck drivers, janitorial engineers, and phlebotomist helpers and keepers of the juice.

Like good roadies, they are usually the first to arrive and last to leave the draw. From ice and snow in December, cold February mornings, April downpours and hot August afternoons, they trek from the van to draw without a whimper. The slog can sometime be to the top of multistory buildings, across expansive grounds of state office buildings, under the steps of a high school auditorium or through an underground parking maze that would confuse a mole. Even when the location is easy to find they sometimes have to obtain security clearance, pass through a metal detector and survive the scrutiny of uniformed guards, just to enter the front door.

A good M.A. has a Global Positioning System along with an avalanche beacon built into their brain. Not only do they need to find these remote locations but they then have to negotiate a huge moving van into spaces a VW bug would have trouble fitting into.

Getting to the location is only half the fun … Imagine having to move a one-bedroom apartment to a new location each morning and then packing it up again at the end of the day. That will give you an idea of the amount work involved. It is a physical workout where one needs the strength of a NFL linebacker, the quickness of an NBA point guard, and the toughness of a NHL goalie.

In my quest to donate and volunteer around Puget Sound, I have run across two M.A.s that I think are the best Roadies around. They are the Men of Mobile 7, Tom Plantenberg and Dan Deyour. Whenever I arrive at one of their drives, I am always greeted with warm welcome and usually a good-natured jab about my showing up a few minutes late. Part of the joy of volunteering with these guys has been being able to joke and kid each other in good fun. Tom always has a pot of coffee that would make a Norwegian cringe. I have the honor of being one of the few to have actually drunk a cup of Tom’s coffee after it has set for a few hours. I was fortunate that the brew was still in liquid form. Dan on the other hand doesn’t have a pot of coffee waiting in the mornings but instead he is brimming with a recent story that would be unbelievable if it happened to anyone other then Dan. In most of these stories, Dan is on the receiving end of some catastrophic event that would have others running for cover. Dan keeps a sense of humor through it all and you can hear his deep explosive laugh across the room every so often. His laugh is sort of a cross between a Santa’s HOHOHO and the breaching of an Orca whale. It always brings a smile to my face.

One aspect of this job that Tom and Dan are sometimes required to perform is the long road trip. Like the early explorers of the high seas, they have been known to venture to the very end of Puget Sound Blood Center territory. It can be all the way to the northern bounds around Port Angeles, where loggers are known to have veins the size of a #2 pencils, to as far down as the Vancouver area, within sight of the Columbia River. No matter when the call comes, Dan and Tom are always there, setting up the draws to supply western Washington with new blood every day. Thank you guys for the great work you do. You are the Lewis and Clark of South Puget sound, the Master Movers, the unsung heroes of the Blood Center.

Celebrating People in Action

April 24, 2010 at 2:36 pm

In honor of National Volunteer Week, Puget Sound Blood Center thanks volunteers such as you for your time, talent and contributions to our mission of saving lives.

In 2009, more than 2,100 volunteers registered donors, monitored donors, couriered blood to and from hospitals, called and scheduled donors’ appointments, helped donors join the Be The Match Marrow Registry and completed numerous administrative tasks for a total of 105,000 hours of volunteer service! What an extraordinary act of kindness and an amazing level of commitment you have shown to our community.

You, as a Volunteer of the Blood Center, are truly valued and appreciated and are an essential asset to the organization. You play a key role in the work that we do. “Thank You” is certainly not enough to express our gratitude for all the time, energy and dedication you have given to the Blood Center, but since it is all we have, we simply say, “THANK YOU!”

If you wish to become a volunteer, learn the many ways you can help.

A Donor Helped a Newborn Breathe

April 12, 2010 at 12:52 pm

Thanks to Jason for sharing this story of how a single donation to Puget Sound Blood Center helped his son take his first real breath.

Take a deep breath. Now hold it for as long as you can. Hold it until you can feel the burning pain in your lungs, in your hands and in your face. Now exhale. Breathe hard to cleanse your body of carbon dioxide. Feel the burning sensation ebb away.

Now imagine if it didn’t go away. Imagine panting and gasping as hard as you could, with no effect. Now imagine if these were your first experiences of life, in the moments after being born. Think how terrifying that would be.

That is what happened to my son. There were complications during delivery. He broke some blood vessels under his scalp–a lot of them, actually–so by the time he was born he had lost about a third of his blood supply. His umbilical cord was also wrapped around his neck, so in effect, he couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t circulate blood to his placenta to get rid of the carbon dioxide.

When that happens, it’s called acidosis, and he had it bad. He had it so bad that by the time he was born, the blood left within his veins and arteries was ruined. The acid buildup had damaged his red blood cells to where they weren’t any good for circulating oxygen and expelling CO2 anymore.

He was gasping for air in a room full of it and he was getting nothing.

The doctors ran some tests, diagnosed the situation, and explained to me, “His blood is ruined, and if we don’t treat this, he could suffer serious brain damage.” They explained the treatment, and I signed the consent form, my hand shaking. I watched as a nurse brought in a bag of O-negative while the surgeon threaded some tubes into the stump of my son’s umbilical cord.

Before my child even had a name, I watched as the doctor performed a “partial replacement transfusion” on him by pulling my son’s old blood out through his umbilical vein while pumping new, good blood in through an umbilical artery. I watched as his color went from bed-sheet-white to healthy pink. I watched as his Apgar scores rose from two, to five and all the way up to ten.

I watched this miracle take place before my eyes. It was possible because there was a pint of O-neg handy and the doctors knew what to do with it.

Today, my son is five years old. He’ll be starting kindergarten in the fall. He’s teaching himself to read. He folds origami better than most adults. He draws amazing pictures, climbs playground equipment and drives his parents just as crazy as does any normal kid.

I can’t say the transfusion saved my son’s life. Chances are he would have lived without it. But I can say that transfusion meant the difference between a normal life and a life lived under the millstone of serious brain damage. What I know is that today my son is healthy and happy, with the full potential of his life ahead of him. Thanks to smart and fast-acting doctors–and an anonymous blood donor who made their work possible–the cruel mischances of labor and delivery did not rob my son of the chance to really live.

For that, I am forever grateful.

Give a pint. You may save a life, or you may save someone’s quality of life. And isn’t that what really matters?

Schedule your next donation at a Donor Center.

Hitting the Road to Donate (Part Three): The Fine Art of Phlebotomy

March 23, 2010 at 9:38 am

Steven Pogge and Debra Monroe

Guest Blog Post by Steven Pogge

Thanks to Steven Pogge for chronicling his mission to donate at all 11 donor centers in Western Washington, and for acknowledging staff and volunteers at each center. In this post, he honors Debra Monroe, a phlebotomist of the Federal Way Donor Center.

I have always marveled at the job the techs do at Puget Sound Blood Center. Over the years I have come to realize how many different aspects of the job there actually are.

Of all the people that are involved in collecting blood and blood products, it is the Phlebotomists that are on the front lines. They are the foot soldiers of the Blood Center. They interact daily with the volunteers, management, transport, tech support and of course the donors. They are required to be constantly cheerful even on days they are not feeling particular happy. They are sometimes swamped with donors and other times it can be painfully slow. Keeping things meticulously clean and germ free is one of their top duties. When dealing with blood everything has to be check, doubled checked and checked again. The rules and regulations are constantly changing and must be followed to a T. They are required to find out very personal facts from donors such as sexual history, medications and lifestyle. They deal with enough paperwork to make a bureaucrat cringe and sometimes are called upon to be techno wizards when the computer or printer breaks down. In addition to all this, they sometimes need to deal with reactions to donations. They also must remain polite to some quirky donors. Granted, most donors are the nicest, most normal people you ever want to meet, but you do find once in awhile a rather odd personality will grace the doors.

In my recent quest to donate at all the centers, all phlebotomists have done these duties with grace, cheerfulness and proficiency. One phlebotomist especially stands out in my mind. She works at the Federal Way Donor center and her name is Debra Monroe. Deb has done this work for quite a few years and has a lot of experience but she still hasn’t lost that freshness and energy. One of the things I find most appealing is that she is always happy and has a kind word to say to everyone. She has excellent blood drawing skills and handles each aspect of the job with confidence and professionalism. She is genuine and open and willing to share parts of her life that she loves and enjoys. Having grown up on an Iowa farm, I love to hear about Piggy, her pot belly pig, in addition to the other animals on her small farm. Along with sharing, she is also a great listener even when I ramble on. Deb treats everyone as an individual person and not just another pint of blood. She is this way not only with the donors but also the volunteers. I noticed she tends to always thanks us when our volunteer shift is done. It is always nice to be appreciated.

Thank you, Debra. It is the people like you that keep me coming back year after year.

Thank you, Steven! Eagerly we await the next installment in your quest across Western Washington.

Sincerely,

Sean DeButts, Social Media Coordinator
Puget Sound Blood Center

Hitting the Road to Donate (Part Two): It’s More than Juice and Cookies.

March 15, 2010 at 10:29 am

Louise & Steven at the Tukwila Donor Center

Guest Blog Post by Steven Pogge

Thanks to Steven Pogge for chronicling his mission to donate at all 11 donor centers in Western Washington. Steven is going to write about the workers and volunteers at each center who touch him in a positive way during the donation process. He said those people could be registration volunteers, canteen volunteers, nurses, center supervisors, coordinators or phlebotomists.

After donating and volunteering for years at the same center in Olympia, I decided to venture out and check out the other blood centers to see if the high standards and friendly atmosphere were the same all through the system.  What I found surprised me; each center had it own micro culture.  All were doing exactly the same thing, but the different individuals made each center unique.  As I continued my quest, I found a few individuals to stand out among the many dedicated and professional volunteers and staff.  It is these few people, each doing a different job, I would like to tell you about.

The first person I would like to write about is a canteen volunteer at Tukwila.  Louise was her name and like many of the volunteers with PSBC she had a few years under her belt.  She was well into her 80’s, looked like she was in her 70’s, had the energy of someone in their 60’s, and the quickness of mind of a 50 year old.  My drink was ready before I even had a chance to sit down.  How did she know what I wanted?  When I arrived, I had forgotten that I had casually mentioned to her that I would be over to see her for coffee in a little while.  When I came to the canteen an hour and a half later, sure enough, a cup of coffee was waiting for me. One can sometimes feel a positive energy in people and it was obvious that Louise hadn’t lost that energy or zest for life.  As we struck up a conversation, I knew that I was talking not only to someone who was intelligent and willing to share her opinion but one who was also willing to listen to mine.  If you sat down with someone three decades older than yourself, you would think there would be little in common to discuss.  We soon learned that we had both grown up in rural western Iowa and had attended the same college after high school.

It was called Iowa State Teaching College when she went and change to the University of Northern Iowa when I went in the 70’s.  We even laughed about the nickname of the clock tower that all undergraduates have joked about since the school built it back in the twenties.  I ended up staying well past my 10 minutes allotment talking, laughing and marveling at a woman who lived through wars, depressions and hardship but still was positive and present in the joy of the moment.  Thank you Louise, not only for the juice and cookies but for making my donation that day memorable.

Thank you, Steven! We look forward to reading the next installment in your journey across Western Washington.

Sincerely,

Sean DeButts, Social Media Coordinator
Puget Sound Blood Center

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