Meet the Bloodworks Center for Global Impact’s New Class of Life Savers

November 2, 2017 at 12:20 pm

In October, healthcare leaders from around the world traveled to Bloodworks Northwest–some, despite horrific natural disasters–to attend a special Bloodworks Center for Global Impact course. Below, we share some of their stories and the insights they’ll use to save lives back home. 

There’s a river where a road once was in Peggy Samuels’s Turks and Caicos hometown.

In a series of photos, Peggy’s daughter captured the destruction left by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Tilting utility poles and sagging palm trees grazed murky brown water that seeped into buildings’ ground floors.

Though Peggy said her kids were scared, she kept her travel plans to Bloodworks Northwest’s Seattle headquarters. As Chief Medical Technologist for the National Blood Bank of Turks and Caicos Islands, Peggy was part of a special group of international healthcare leaders attending the Bloodworks Center for Global Impact Laboratory Quality Management Systems course. “I made a huge effort to get here after the hurricanes because I found it so important to obtain the knowledge that we’re now getting,” she said.

The Bloodworks Center for Global Impact prepares healthcare professionals from all over the world to tackle blood banking challenges in their home countries–from dealing with infected blood, to boosting donor recruitment and engagement. This year’s scholars traveled from as far as Burkina Faso and Cote d’Ivoire to get the most up-to-date information about collecting and transfusing blood.

Bloodworks Northwest’s role as a blood center and research institute puts it in a unique position to help, according to Bloodworks’ Chief Operating Officer, Linda Barnes.”There are many organizations that academically train individuals, but they may not have the breadth and depth of services we offer from arm to arm,” she said.

Meet the Scholars

DSC_2000Peggy Samuels 
Turks and Caicos Ministry of Health, Agriculture and Human Services

Her Role: Chief Medical Technologist, overseeing the National Public Health Lab and Blood Bank
Why Bloodworks Academy: “The skills that we learn here will really impact our organizations back home. I made a huge effort to get here after the hurricanes because I found it so important to obtain the knowledge that we’re now getting.”
Biggest Challenge: “Before the hurricanes, we wanted to stock up on blood, and we were so stressed out anticipating a Category 5, that nobody wanted to donate. People were busy putting up their shutters, people were busy buying plywood, getting water, stocking up. We sent text messages, but it was difficult–I’ve never experienced that before.”
New Insight: “We don’t have an apheresis machine, so right now if an adult needs platelets, we have to take five donors to get the five packs of platelets. [At Bloodworks], you can take one donor, hook them up to the apheresis machine and you get one set of platelets for one patient, which is so much easier.”

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Dr. Liliane Siransy
National Blood Transfusion Service of Cote D’Ivoire

Her Role: Blood Bank Coordinator
Why Bloodworks Academy: “Blood transfusion is my passion and it’s very interesting to see how it’s done here in Seattle.”
Biggest Challenge: “We have a lot of budgetary problems. It’s very hard to perform our services because there’s always something that interrupts us on a daily basis. Nevertheless, we do have personnel who are very motivated and who work very hard to find solutions.”
New Insight: “On the very first day we learned that the collection of blood can take place with donors who are as young as sixteen. Where I come from, it begins at eighteen years of age. We have a terrible lack of blood and I heard it would be possible–with all of the necessary precautions–to lower the age to somehow mediate our shortage.”

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Carol Robinson
Lab Manager, Turks and Caicos Island Hospital Clinical Lab

Her Role: Lab Manager
Why Bloodworks Academy: “To learn more about how I can improve in the services of blood banking back in the Turks and Caicos islands. As well as to see if what we’re doing back at home is OK.”
Biggest Challenge: “Having the donors come in to donate.”
New Insight: “I’m learning that some of the challenges we have back home are also here. I’m learning that there’s always room to learn more, there’s always room for improvement. There are even some things you don’t realize you know until someone brings it up to you. It opens your eyes and it reinforces what you already know.”

Dr. Amadou Diarra
National Blood Transfusion Service of Mali

His Role: Transfusion Specialist
Biggest Challenge: “We don’t have enough blood donors. Infectious diseases are prevalent in our area as well. There are very few qualified people in the field and we are very short on financing.”
Why Bloodworks Academy: “We came to see the best and to learn from the best.  It’s wonderful to be able to benefit from the training we’re receiving at Bloodworks and we hope to transfer the knowledge into or own practices in our own countries.”
New Insight: What we’re seeing here is not something new for us, but what is different is the organization, the skills. At the end of this visit, we’re going to try to understand what we can do with what we have acquired here and try to apply it, taking into consideration the limited resources we have at home.”

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Sheryl Jones
Turks and Caicos Islands Hospital

Her Role: Lead Medical Technologist
The Biggest Challenge: “The challenges I face are the doctors ordering more blood than we can keep up with. We have to be calling them, asking, ‘Do you still really need this unit? Can we please release it?’ The next challenge is that the doctors do not share with their patients that its good for you to bring in a donor so you have a unit of blood on standby.”
New Insight: “Bloodworks’ Dr. Megan spoke about when you should transfuse [blood] and how much do you transfuse. I found that so interesting because it’s one of the problems the director back home was facing.”

Behind the Scenes: A Bloodworks Donor’s Photo Shoot with Seattle Football Star Bobby Wagner

October 27, 2017 at 1:06 pm

 

 

 

Bobby Wagner-2Nicole Stanton is an art director, mama of two boys, blood donor–and a big football fan.

So naturally, she was thrilled when she found out she would be joining the Bloodworks photo shoot with Seattle professional football player Bobby Wagner. Bobby will hang out with 12 randomly selected donors and volunteers at the end of the season.

“I was a huge fan when Bobby joined the team, and getting to meet him and get some photos was awesome,” she said. “A lot of bragging on social media.”

Nicole has been a blood donor even longer than she’s been bleeding blue and green.

“It all started in high school and from there, when I see an opportunity, I take advantage of it,” she said.

Though Nicole is sometimes deferred due to a low iron count, she makes it a point to donate when the Bloodworks bus comes to her work. For her, it’s an efficient way to help the community and an opportunity to set an example for her kids.

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“I have a six-year-old who’s very impressionable right now,” she said. “I’m trying to lay out a good example of community service at a young age.”

According to Nicole, Bobby’s support of blood donation is another great example.

“I think they are an awesome football team and I love their commitment to doing good in the community,” she said. “The fact that the partnership exists makes total sense to me.”

So, what was Bobby like in person?

“He is super kind and he definitely has a sense of humor,” she said.  “My dad is a fan, and you know, all through my life, my kids and everything, he’s like, ‘Oh that’s cool,’ but that photo of me and Bobby—he was so impressed. I think I made him the most proud of me he’s ever been.”

Want to hang out with Bobby Wagner too? You’ll be entered to win an invite each time you give blood or volunteer, through Feb. 4. Learn more at MeetBobby.BloodworksNW.org.

For One Platelet Donor, Cancer Closes the Loop

October 10, 2017 at 10:30 am

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Parts of the blood donation process are predictable: Cushy chair, poke, wrap, snack.

But what happens next can seem like a mystery.

Bloodworks donor and volunteer Scott Carstensen gained unique insight into a blood donation’s journey when, five years ago, his wife Holly was diagnosed with Stage 3 invasive breast cancer.

When it comes to cancer, it can be hard to identify a single “toughest part.” For Scott, there’s no question.

“Seeing my wife on the couch, curled up in a ball looking like a zombie,” he recalled. “She looked like she was half dead and the only thing I could do to help was take her to a doctor. It was just heartbreaking.”

At the time, Scott had been a regular platelet donor for three years. But his blood donations were about to get a lot more personal.

Cancer patients frequently need platelets, particularly when enduring chemotherapy. This aggressive treatment leads to low platelet counts which, according to American Cancer Society, can put patients at risk for life-threatening infections or bleeding.

As Scott began taking Holly to chemotherapy, he noticed a familiar name on other chemo patients’ blood transfusion bags.

“All the patients had bags of blood that said ‘Puget Sound Blood Center’–now Bloodworks Northwest,” he said. “It was an eye-opening experience for me, because here’s my lovely wife needing a blood transfusion and local people are helping to save her life. It really just closed the loop for me.”

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Scott’s wife, Holly, with their son, Marze, daughter, Troy, and dog. 

Throughout Holly’s treatments, Scott continued to donate platelets every week. These donations had another unpredictable benefit.

“The ladies at the blood center were a huge part of my weekly battle,” he said. “They would hear me pour my heart out, we’d cry together and laugh together.”

The same ladies gave Scott and Holly a gift certificate to the Bonneville Hot Springs Resort. One year later, they were able to enjoy it together. Today, Holly is healthy and cancer-free.

Scott continues to regularly donate platelets at the Bloodworks Vancouver Donor Center. Even though Holly no longer needs blood transfusions, he has a unique understanding of his donations’ impact.

“You never know when somebody around you or close to you is going to need these products,” he said.

For now, the best he can do is prepare for the unpredictable.

Scott 200 Donations

Scott earned a special leaf on the tree of life after donating blood 200 times. 

 

Local Lifeline: A Life Saved in Lane County

September 15, 2017 at 2:18 pm

During the Thanksgiving weekend of 2000, Ed St. Clair was suffering with severe back and abdominal pain.

He needed immediate medical assistance. Knowing it would be a long wait for an ambulance in the rural area where they lived, his wife Adrienne drove him to the fire station in South Eugene. From there, he was transported to Sacred Heart Medical Center.

Ed St. ClairThe rapidly responding medical team diagnosed Ed’s condition as an aortic aneurysm on the verge of rupture – a life-threatening health crisis. The bulging aneurysm was detected on the largest blood vessel in the human body. This artery delivers blood from the heart directly to the vital organs. If it bursts, the odds of survival are only 6 percent. Half of those rare survivors become paralyzed permanently as a result of nerve damage from the lack of oxygenated blood flowing throughout the body.

Ed was stabilized to prepare for the surgery to repair his damaged aorta. Vascular specialist Dr. David DeHass, MD and thoracic surgeon Dr. David Duke, MD were out of town for the holiday but were called back to perform the delicate operation. As he waited for the doctors to return to Eugene, the situation became more critical as the chronic inflammation from Ed’s rheumatoid arthritis allowed blood to leak from the aneurism in his chest.

After a terrifying and seemingly endless 24 hours, the operation began in hopes that Ed’s life could be saved. During the 9-hour procedure, the expert surgical team grafted a tube of dacron polyester fabric into the damaged section of Ed’s aorta. The procedure successfully repaired the blood vessel and allowed Ed’s circulatory system to begin recovering.

St. Clair Family

Within the span of one day, Ed received 65 units of A positive blood. Thanks to the generous donors at Lane Memorial Blood Bank (now Lane Bloodworks), that blood was available right here in our community.

“Without the blood, there would have been no point in doing the surgery,” Ed said. “Blood was an essential component of the surgery.” Today Ed suffers no ill-effects from the ordeal, and has continued to donate blood whenever possible. He jokes, “I had to miss my appointment to donate blood at Lane Memorial Blood Bank the Monday after the surgery, though.”

First Person: My Life With Sickle Cell Disease

September 13, 2017 at 11:47 am

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Most college students’ biggest worry is their upcoming test or weekend plans. For Washington State University student Laelah Ndifon, it’s how quickly she can get to the nearest hospital.

Laelah has sickle cell disease, an inherited disorder that makes her red blood cells shaped like stiff crescents instead of flexible discs. These pointed cells can snag on blood vessel walls, preventing oxygen from reaching her tissues. As a result, Laelah often experiences intense pain, called a “pain crisis,” that can be life-threatening. Blood transfusions from local donors give Laelah renewed strength and energy by increasing the number of disc-shaped cells in her bloodstream.

Keep reading to learn about how Laelah copes with pain crises, a common sickle cell misconception, and the one thing she wants blood donors to know.

On coping with sickle cell pain crises: Most of my pain crises feel like I’m being stabbed repeatedly by knives and can last for hours, days, and even weeks. The way I take my mind off of my pain is usually by pacing back and forth around the room which sounds weird, but it really calms my mental state through the pain. When it comes to dealing with other people during my pain episodes, I may come off as rude. Not because I want to, but I’m trying to keep my composure and mental state at ease. When I’m being asked a bunch of questions and people are trying to keep a conversation with me, I easily become irritated because the pain causes me to stutter which becomes frustrating. So, I really enjoy isolating myself and dealing with my pain on my own.

Laelah4Laelah with her brother. 

On misconceptions: A common misconception a lot of people have about sickle cell is that it is contagious. Growing up, a lot of people always asked if I was contagious or were scared to share food with me because they were afraid they would get sickle cell, which is not true at all. That’s what I want to stress the most to people who are ignorant about the illness. The only way someone can have sickle cell is through birth and even then, your parents have traits of sickle cell and in some cases, one parent has the trait and the other does not.

On day-to-day challenges: Sickle has impacted my life in so many ways. When I was in high school, I became very fit and became very serious about my physical health. I was working out aggressively one day, and the workout was so strenuous that it put me in the hospital due to a serious pain crisis. From that day moving forward, I had to slow down and rest when needed. I have also had pain crisis in areas of my body that I didn’t know could even have pain crisis. I had my wisdom teeth removed and had sickle cell pain in my mouth for a month and the pain almost matched the severity of my main crisis area: my legs.

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On managing sickle cell in college: Being in college and having sickle cell has impacted my life tremendously. Washington State University is 5 hours away from Seattle, where all my healthcare providers are. So when I am having a pain crisis, I have to go to the nearest hospital that treats sickle cell which is an hour away. Receiving instant medical attention is definitely a huge problem I’ve faced. While in college, I have also developed a severe case of iron deficiency which has affected my performance in my classes. I recently just began having iron infusions that have given me a lot of energy to be academically successful which I am very excited about.

On blogging as an outlet for inspiration: I love helping people and creating an impact in people’s lives, so I decided to create a blog called The Fluer. I try to make it as relatable as possible. I talk about issues pertaining to anxiety, depression, positivity and how to get through it. In many ways my blog has helped me through so much and I have received feedback from people who go through mental illnesses/sickle cell who have found my blog resourceful to them. I hope to be able to help my sickle cell community in the future by opening a non-profit organization and a mentoring program for sickle cell youth. I think my blog is baby steps to my goals for my sickle cell community.

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On the power of blood transfusions: My sickle cell has reached its worst state when I was in high school and had two strokes and a seizure. I was immediately rushed to the hospital where I was given a blood transfusion for the first time. Without that blood transfusion, I don’t think I would be living the wonderful life I am living today. I also didn’t really pay attention to how important donating blood is. With every blood donation, donors are saving so many lives and aren’t given as much credit as they should.

On what she’d say to blood donors: Thank you to each and every blood donor who takes it upon themselves to help others. Your contribution not only is saving lives, but making a huge impact in the world. You’re needed, appreciated, and such a huge part of many people’s lives. Thank you for saving my life!

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