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

Donor Profile: Ted Dimitriou

March 10, 2010 at 2:39 pm

Ted Dimitriou, 78, has donated blood 252 times with Puget Sound Blood Center. Ready to try something new, Ted made his first platelet donation on Saturday and plans to reach at least 260 combined donations. Ted said he saw the importance of blood donation while serving in the military. He has a straightforward reason for giving of himself so regularly.

“I donate because I know I’ll be helping someone I can never meet, and I’m helping them regardless of race, religion, gender or age,” Ted said. “It’s as simple as that.”

Thank you, Ted! Your donations have saved as many as 752 lives.

You can save lives, too. Combine efforts with your friends and hold a Social Network Blood Drive at your local donor center.


Sincerely,

Sean DeButts, Social Media Coordinator

Puget Sound Blood Center

Donors, Thank You for Saving My Daughter, Part 2

February 16, 2010 at 3:12 pm

A Western Washington mother completes the story of how Puget Sound Blood Center platelet and blood donors saved her daughter’s life. Their donations kept her daughter alive until a cord blood donation helped cure her of leukemia. In her previous blog post, the mother told how no matching bone marrow donors could be found. However, cord blood (donated from the umbilical cord and placenta after birth) offered a second chance.

My husband spoke with a doctor who pioneered the use of cord blood for transplants, as well as from a doctor who was compiling all of the data from all cord blood transplants. They each spoke to my husband for over an hour. (Thank you, Doctors). They told us that the stem cells from cord blood transplants are much more flexible than the stem cells from bone marrow, one reason being that the cord blood circulates through both the baby and mother without reacting to either. Unless donated, cord blood is typically discarded. We opted to head east for her transplant, and a 5/6 matching cord was located (a very good match). (Thank you to whoever donated their cord & placenta! All we will ever know about the donor was that the baby was a girl).

The pre-transplant chemo and radiation really did kill all of our daughter’s blood cells (and her hair cells, skin cells, finger and toenails, etc.) and she lived on donated PRBCs (packed red blood cells) and platelets for the better part of 3 months. When her platelets were so low, she would bruise just from light touches, and her arms were always bruised from simply laying them on the armrests of chairs. (Thank you, thank you to all of these whole blood and platelet donors.) She received her new cord blood stem cells in a very anti-climactic transfusion in 2000. The recovery was long with much discomfort, but she was able to come home to Washington state in June. She has needed no further blood products, but we are all huge supporters of the PUGET SOUND BLOOD CENTER. (Thank you again, PUGET SOUND BLOOD CENTER.)

She started back to school in the fall of 2001, got her BA in 2003, and finished her MA in 2005. She now has a new blood type and is healthy, happy and employed.

And in case I forgot to say it: THANK YOU !

Thank you for extending your gratitude to donors, and for using your daughter’s story to inspire others to become donors! To help save patients such as this mother’s brave daughter, you can schedule an appointment at your local donor center. To learn more about how you can donate your baby’s cord blood, visit the Puget Sound Blood Center Cord Blood Program’s Web pages.

Sincerely,

Sean DeButts, Social Media Coordinator
Puget Sound Blood Center

Donors, Thank You for Saving My Daughter, Part 1

February 11, 2010 at 10:46 am

A Western Washington mother sends her gratitude to the many blood donors of Puget Sound Blood Center who helped her daughter survive until a matching cord blood donor could be found.

Our eldest daughter was diagnosed with T-cell Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL) in June of 1997. She was 16 ½ and had just finished 10th grade. She / we spent the better part of the summer at a hospital where they did their best to kill all of her blood cells. Her blood type was A positive. In order to keep her alive, she needed many transfusions of Packed Red Blood Cells (PRBCs). (Thank you to the many donors, who well exceeded our family’s donations.) She was in remission after just a couple of weeks and stayed that way throughout the 2 ½ year chemo protocol. She graduated from high school and was looking forward to starting to college in the fall, but when they did the final bone marrow draw to confirm her remission, we discovered that she was relapsing. This would require a bone marrow transplant.

The search for an unrelated donor was started immediately, but there wasn’t anyone in the international donor bank that matched her slightly unusual set of HLAs. No better match than 7/10 HLAs was found. Neither of us parents were an adequate match (parents can generally only match 50% – a terrible match) and our other daughter was an even worse match (she seemed to have gotten the opposite mix of our genetic dice), though siblings have a 1:4 chance of matching. She also had to start a new nasty chemo protocol that got her back into “remission”, but had to be repeated every two months, each time with a 20% chance it wouldn’t work again. This, of course, required many more units of PRBCs. (Thank you all again, donors). During this time, we worked with Puget Sound Blood Center and arranged to have an HLA typing drive in conjunction with a regular blood drive in our small town. The turnout here exceeded many that were held in big cities. (Thank you to our townsfolk). Though no one here was any better of a match, I have heard that at least one person typed that day went on to donate to someone else’s precious child. (Thank you, bone marrow donor.)

In talking with the National Marrow Donor program, my husband found out about cord blood transplants. We learned that a cord blood transplant might be our daughter’s best chance for survival.

Next week, we will tell how her daughter found a match, and explain how expectant parents can become involved in cord blood donation. You can Visit this page to hold a blood drive at your nearby donor center .

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