Why I Love Volunteers and My Job!

July 24, 2010 at 2:08 pm

Jan and Augie, Long-Time Volunteers with whom Cecilia Stevens has Worked at the Silverdale Donor Center

By Cecilia Stevens, Volunteer Services Coordinator at the Silverdale Donor Center

I have the pleasure of hearing many stories and meeting many lives that have been touched by the Blood Center. Volunteers who join us often stay for years doing jobs such as registration, donor monitoring, administration and transportation. Without these wonderful individuals, we could not succeed and I would not have this great job!

The most important part of my job is developing and nurturing ongoing relationships. Also crucial is training volunteers well so that they are confident in their jobs. Every day is different and exciting. It is not stress-free, but no job is, and the reward is knowing you are helping others give something special of their time and talents to a very special organization. I thank Puget Sound Blood Center for the privilege of being a Volunteer Services Coordinator.

If you wish to become a volunteer for Puget Sound Blood Center, learn the many ways you can help.

In My Own Words: Why I Coordinate Summer and Holiday Drives

July 7, 2010 at 12:11 pm

Dennis Smart is the blood drive coordinator for Mercer Island Covenant Church

My name is Dennis Smart, and I am the blood drive coordinator for Mercer Island Covenant Church.

On the morning of January 8, 1997, my doctor called me and told me that I had an incurable form of Leukemia. As an avid blood donor, donating blood 85 times in my life, I always thought that I was doing something worthwhile. However, following my Leukemia diagnosis, this privilege was taken away. I decided to continue helping others by volunteering at the Bellevue blood center and at mobile blood drives on the Eastside.

In 2004, I learned firsthand the value of blood donation. I experienced out-of-control internal hemorrhaging, and I could not produce blood fast enough to offset the blood loss. It was then that I realized just how important the availability of blood was for people like me; without blood, I wouldn’t have survived.

While continuing my volunteer work for Puget Sound Blood Center, I learned that almost 20% of our community blood donations come from high school and college blood drives. When these schools are closed in the summer and during the holidays, our community must rely more than ever on churches and community groups to hold blood drives.

I approached my church, Mercer Island Covenant, about this opportunity to help safeguard the community blood supply. The church agreed to schedule blood drives on the Monday before Christmas and during the summer. Our parishioners and other Mercer Island donors have shown that they are anxious to help at these critical times.

It’s a wonderful feeling to know that, although I can no longer donate my blood, I can be helpful in very meaningful ways. Each time that I serve as a blood drive coordinator and volunteer at a blood drive, I think: today, I might help save another person’s life, just as mine was saved in the past.

Learn about organizing your own blood drive

Write your own blog post about Puget Sound Blood Center

The Infamous Money Question

July 5, 2010 at 11:31 am

Fundraising isn’t for everyone…

Post by Bob Forgrave

I was sitting down at Starbucks having a great conversation with a fellow swimmer on my new Swim For Life team when we got to an awkward pause and he finally asked with a wince the question that had been bothering him for a while. “So…I know this is a fundraiser. Do I have to go ask my friends for money?”

It’s an important question, and for some folks, a tough one. This swim exists today because of what it has done so far—most recently helping to fund part of two bloodmobile purchases—and because of the difference it can make now and in the future. The more money you raise, the more potential lives you can save by linking donors and recipients, like Randy Yamanaka and Rosalie Jewett, who were matched by the bone marrow registry that this swim now supports. The Puget Sound Blood Center even has a letter and an online donation site to help get you started.

But even without that dedicated effort, the swim makes a difference, with each team’s registration fee covering the cost for 1.4 people to join the Be The Match registry. Personally, I found that number both comforting and a bit odd. One person and a 40% person? One 40% taller or wider person? In the interest of neatness, I felt compelled to fix this metric, so I committed to paying for our team in full, then just adding each swimmer’s individual reimbursement back into a larger total for our team. I told my team member that, and his relief turned to enthusiasm about possibly recruiting more team members from his master’s team—which, when you think about it, is another way of asking friends to contribute. Different strokes for different folks.

Meanwhile, I’m happy to report that my no-fundraising method of raising our contribution to a neat round number means that our team’s participation will cover the Be The Match registry costs of…2.45 bone marrow donors? Crud. That’s still not an even number! Looks like we may be doing some minor fundraising after all…

Puget Sound Blood Center needs 100 swim teams to raise $55,000 in funds for bone marrow donation registration on Aug. 18. Click here to register for Swim for Life. To learn more about forming your own team (four swimmers and a kayaker) or about swimming solo, visit: http://www.psbc.org/news_archive/swim2010.htm

A History of the Swim for Life, a.k.a. “Donor Party Crossing”

May 25, 2010 at 1:45 pm

Swim for Life, 2008

By Scott Leopold, Founder of Swim for Life Across Lake Washington.

On Aug. 18, 2010, there will be 400 swimmers, 100 kayakers and dozens of small power craft on Lake Washington raising $50,000 for bone marrow registration. Swim for Life has come a long way since I started it 13 years ago by swimming solo across Lake Washington.

My inspiration to start the Swim for Life came from a very good friend, Steve, who lost a son to leukemia at the age of three. Steve is one of my heroes: He’s on Puget Sound Blood Center’s Tree of Life, which means he has given 100 or more donations. I met Steve in 1996. In 1998 I decided to drum up a little excitement by encouraging the public to donate blood at Puget Sound Blood Center. That’s when I swam solo – guided only by my friend Pat in a very small kayak – from Medina beach to the UW Husky Stadium – almost four miles.

Pat Anderson, Lori Wolfe, Scott Leopold First Swim for Life, Sep. 19, 1998

After three years of this grueling event I decided to make it more attractive: It’s hard to get people excited about a four-mile swim, so I chose Madison Beach 2.5-miles to the northwest. It was important to me that Swim for Life (initially dubbed “The Donor Crossing”) to maintain an important bragging right: a complete open-water swim all the way across the lake, and I don’t mean across some skinny portion, like the north end of the lake; I wanted something that was really worth writing home about.

Bob Forgrave joined me in 1999. Things really started to gel in 2001 when a couple dozen swimmers signed on. Now it was more than just a bunch of us Microsofties. I rented canoes from the UW Waterfront Activities Center haul them over in a 15 foot moving van. Then in 2003 I towed a dozen canoes from the UW to Medina, swamping several of them in the process. By the time we hit the water in Medina I was already exhausted.

In 2004, I decided to turn Swim for Life into a fundraiser for Puget Sound Blood Center. Microsoft Employee Jason Lucas joined us (actually, his whole family did!) by swimming with us that year. He has been one of our leading boat safety captains ever since. We had about 66 swimmers and raised about $12,000. In 2005 we raised a bit more.

Swim for Life in August 2009 at Medina Beach

In 2007 Bob’s “team approach” to the Swim for Life won me over and it was a fantastic decision: We expected about 75 swimmers; 150 showed up! We ran out of t-shirts, schwag bags, even registration forms. What a great problem to have.

2007 was a milestone for the swim because Puget Sound Blood Center officially began a partnership with the Swim for Life, and because Karl Langlois, who heads Seattle Region 10 Patrol and Rescue, joined us. Karl is a special asset to the swim because his network has gained the support of dozens of spotter/patrol boats and several USCG auxiliary vessels. Karl made – out of his own pocket – over a hundred bright orange safety flags that each paddler will carry to quickly summon a nearby speedboat in case a swimmer needs attention.  Karl even writes an official NOTICE TO MARINERS, which warns boaters and seaplanes to steer clear of our event.  Last year, one of Karl’s USCG auxiliary officers waved off a seaplane that was coming in to land:  It was carrying a rather well-known software company executive.  Today, our “safety armada” of speedboats and USCG auxiliary vessels boasts trauma kits, defibrillators, and two paramedics.

Come Join Us!

One Hundred and Fifty swimmers raised $20,000 in 2007, 260 swimmers raised $25,000 in 2008, and 322 swimmers raised $29,000 last year. In 2007 we had a 12-year-old boy swim the entire 2.5 miles, and in 2008 his 10-year-old buddy joined us. It boggles my mind.

I believe in three things: Put your money where your mouth is, lead by example and be the change you want to see in the world. I urge you to contact your friends and save lives by forming a swim team for Aug. 18 (visit http://www.psbc.org/news_archive/swim2010.htm). I’m living proof that one man really can change the world.

I wish Pat were here to see what he helped me build.

Jessica: A Survivor Twice, Thanks to Blood & Bone Marrow Donation (Part 2)

May 20, 2010 at 5:12 pm

In Tuesday’s post, Jessica described how a bone marrow transplant in 1998 successfully treated her Acute Myeloid Leukemia. However, in 2001, she developed life-threatening Aplastic Anemia as a result of her cancer treatments. Only a second bone marrow transplant had a chance of saving her life.

If you would like to help patients such as Jessica find lifesaving bone marrow matches, please learn about participating in Puget Sound Blood Center’s Swim for Life Across Lake Washington.

My brother came to my rescue yet again. In October of 2002 I received my second bone marrow transplant, this time at the City of Hope in Duarte, California. This time, Daniel donated blood stems cells by PBSC donation (peripheral blood stem cell), instead of from his bone. Donors can use this method about 70 percent of the time.

My second bone marrow transplant was much harder on me–I was in the hospital for several months as opposed to three weeks, and my immune system was so compromised that my mom, who stayed with me every night, had to sleep in a mask and gown.

Thank you too, Jessica. Thank you for your bravery and for your dedication to educating others.

I was discharged from the hospital when I was no longer dependent on my IV for my medications and fluids. I have been disease-free now for eight years.

I had difficulties after each transplant, including Graft vs. Host Disease, the horrible side effects of the medications used to treat it, and the tentative acceptance of my peers after I had been changed so drastically.

It is a frightening thought, to realize that had my brother not been a match for me, had a donor not been found soon, I would have died from Aplastic Anemia within a few months.

I am so fortunate that my brother was a good candidate to donate his bone marrow to me. Some people aren’t as lucky as I have been–70 percent of people requiring a life-saving bone marrow transplant will not find one from a relative, but from someone unrelated. The demand for blood donations and bone marrow donors is frighteningly high. After my experience, every person in my family as well as several close friends who were eligible have signed up with the National Marrow Donor Registry. Registering is really simple: you must be between the ages of 18 and 60, you just have to fill out a health questionnaire and do a simple cheek swab, and you can sign up at any mobile blood drive or donor center.

As strange as it may sound, it was my experience during my first transplant that ignited my love of Seattle and prompted my move here in February of 2008. I love how eco-minded the people in Seattle are, how conscientious everyone is, and how much effort is put into preserving the city and its population. And I am so grateful to the doctors, nurses, volunteers, and donors who commit themselves to saving the lives of patients like myself.

I can’t donate my blood. I can’t donate my bone marrow. All I can do is share my story, and thank the brave men and women who help to save those patients who do not have a big brother who loves them.

Thank you, and Baruch Hashem.”

Thank you too, Jessica. Thank you for your bravery and for your dedication to educating others.

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