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Dec 18, 2018 · When You Give Blood, You Give Someone Another Holiday–Sammy’s Story in Blood Donor Program

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After receiving two bone marrow transplants and 89 blood transfusions, nine-year-old Sammy’s health is on the mend. Over the last year, Sammy spent a lot of time in and out of the hospital—including Christmas Eve. Now that his health is improving, Sammy is looking forward to spending this Christmas at home with his family.

Sammy’s health problems began in July 2017, when a terrible virus attacked his liver. While Sammy initially recovered from the virus, he later began to experience new symptoms, including bruising and bloody noses. Then, in October 2017, Sammy began to show signs of petechiae, which are tiny purple spots all over the skin caused by blood vessels breaking open. Sammy’s mom, Kelsey, an RN at Mayo Clinic, knew that Sammy needed to get to the emergency room as soon as possible.

While at the ER, Sammy’s doctors requested blood work. They discovered Sammy’s platelet count was at 6,000, which is extremely low (150,000 to 450,000 is the normal range). To replenish his platelet count, Sammy received his first blood transfusion.

The next day, a hematology doctor diagnosed Sammy with aplastic anemia. The doctor explained that Sammy’s body fought so hard against the virus that his body ended up attacking his own bone marrow, which is responsible for making all the blood cells in the body. At that point, Sammy’s bone marrow was not working and his body was not making any blood cells.

The only cure for aplastic anemia is a bone marrow transplant. In order for a bone marrow transplant to be successful, the donor’s human leukocyte antigen (HLA) markers must closely match the patient’s HLA markers. Matching HLA markers is very complex, but the closer the donor matches to the patient the less chance there will be complications with the tranplant.

Unfortunately, Sammy’s medical team was unable to find an exact bone marrow donor match for him, including among his family members. According to Be The Match, about 70% of patients who need a bone marrow transplant don’t have a close match in their family. Therefore, the medical team began Sammy’s treatment with a less invasive and risky option—immunosuppression therapy. When the immunosuppression therapy did not work, the doctors moved forward with the next best option. The doctors suggested a bone marrow transplant from the closest HLA-matched family member, which happened to be Sammy’s mom, Kelsey. Kelsey agreed to be a donor for her son, saying, “I think anyone would do anything for their kids.”

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Sammy received two bone marrow transplants from his mom, and the second transplant on June 20, 2018, was successful. Since then, Sammy has been doing well. Sammy’s blood count continues to go up on its own and is now in the normal range. In addition, Sammy is beginning to act like himself again. With more energy now, he is able to enjoy many of the active things he once loved doing, like playing catch with his dad.

Before Sammy’s successful second bone marrow transplant, Sammy needed numerous blood transfusions just to function and survive during his treatment at the Mayo Clinic. Sammy received platelet transfusions every three to four days during the worst of it, and he received red blood cell transfusions every two weeks. Throughout the entire span of Sammy’s medical care, he received 89 blood transfusions.

Because of generous blood donors, Sammy is able to celebrate another holiday. Last year at Christmas time, Sammy was fighting for his life, having to go in for a blood transfusion the day before and the day after Christmas. This year, Sammy is healthy, grateful, and excited to bake cookies and open presents. Sammy’s mom, Kelsey, genuinely expressed thanks for “just knowing that he can stay home and enjoy the holidays as a family, and not have to worry about feeling tired or getting another bloody nose. Just the little things we take for granted with our bodies, like our bodies’ ability to make blood. I don’t think we ever will anymore. We are just thankful from the bottom of our hearts that we still have Sammy because of the time people took to donate blood.”

To read more stories like this, visit the Mayo Clinic Blood Donor Program’s Blog Page.

How to Donate
For more information about donating blood in Rochester, Minnesota, call (507) 284-4475 or email donateblood@mayo.edu. Or visit our web page http://www.mayoclinic.org/donateblood.

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Nov 5, 2018 · A Blood Donation Recipient's Story: Ron in Blood Donor Program

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Each morning as he wakes up to a new day, Ron feels gratitude. Every day he can be with a loved one, especially a grandchild, is a great day.

Ron’s renewed appreciation for life springs from his worst day, back on April 26, 2011. “I had been diagnosed with what is commonly known as a ‘widow maker,’” says Ron. “It’s a term referring to the left descending artery down the front of your heart that has a critical blockage.” So, in 2011, Ron had quadruple bypass surgery.

“My first thought was, ‘Will I ever get to meet my first grandchild?’ (due that July),” says Ron.

Fortunately, Ron was under expert care at Mayo Clinic’s Division of Cardiovascular Diseases. “Waking up from surgery with my family all around me was a special moment,” he says.

Ron, now 62, was not only given the chance to meet his first grandchild that July after his surgery, but he’s also enjoyed many terrific days with his other four grandchildren who came later. Recently, he ran his first marathon (26.2 miles). Quite an accomplishment for anyone, but for Ron, it symbolized that his hopes had come true: He could still live an active life and enjoy many great days ahead with his family.

“I thank God, the Mayo staff, and the special people who donated their precious blood, which was the gift of life for me,”he says.

To read more stories like this, visit the Mayo Clinic Blood Donor Program’s Blog Page.

How to Donate
For more information about donating blood in Rochester, Minnesota, call (507) 284-4475 or email donateblood@mayo.edu. Or visit our web page http://www.mayoclinic.org/donateblood.

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Aug 28, 2018 · A Story of Two Blood Donation Recipients: Megan and Blake in Blood Donor Program

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In early 2015, Megan became pregnant with her fourth child. Right away, there were problems related to Megan’s rare blood type. Megan’s first three pregnancies were relatively normal, but with this pregnancy, her antibodies immediately began to interfere with her unborn baby’s ability to multiply red blood cells. It’s a condition known as hemolytic disease of the fetus and newborn, caused by a mismatch between the antigens ofthe mother and fetus.

Via ultrasound, doctors determined that Megan’s baby would need several blood transfusions to treat the anemia. “He was transfused at 29 weeks, 31 weeks, and again at 33 weeks,” says Megan. “I had my blood stored because of my rare blood type, and a donor who was a close match to me gave blood for us. Another donor came from Wisconsin to donate two units of blood.”

The blood was transfused through Megan’s stomach and into her baby’s umbilical cord. Mother and baby were closely monitored after each transfusion. And then, on December 21, 2015, baby Blake arrived healthy—albeit five weeks early.

If not for the strong support from her husband Jim, family, and friends, Megan isn’t sure she could have weathered such a “stressful and sometimes scary” pregnancy. And she hasn’t forgotten the kindness of strangers. “Without those donors, my unborn son Blake could have easily died,” she says. “I can’t even explain how important it is to donate blood, and I urge people to please give because their blood could save multiple lives.”

To read more stories like this, visit the Mayo Clinic Blood Donor Program’s Blog Page.

How to Donate
For more information about donating blood in Rochester, Minnesota, call (507) 284-4475 or email donateblood@mayo.edu. Or visit our web page http://www.mayoclinic.org/donateblood.

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May 16, 2018 · What Makes O-Negative Blood So Unique? in Blood Donor Program

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While all blood types are needed, do you know what makes O-negative blood so unique?

Type O-negative blood can be transfused to patients with any blood type. And because of that fact, type O-negative blood is often used in emergency situations. For example, Mayo One helicopters each carry a cooler with three units of packed red blood cells with O-negative blood and three units of thawed plasma.

Even though O-negative blood can be used on almost any patient who requires blood, it can be difficult to find donors with this blood type. The American Red Cross estimates that less than 7% of the U.S. population have type O-negative blood. Our hospitals, emergency departments, and trauma teams depend on frequent O-negative donations to ensure it’s always available for patients in need.

Again, all blood types are needed at blood donor centers, but type O-negative donations are necessary for emergency situations when there is no time to determine a patient’s blood type.

To read more stories like this, visit the Mayo Clinic Blood Donor Program’s Blog Page.

How to Donate
For more information about donating blood in Rochester, Minnesota, call (507) 284-4475 or email donateblood@mayo.edu. Or visit our web page http://www.mayoclinic.org/donateblood.

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Apr 11, 2018 · A Blood Donor's Story: Bev in Blood Donor Program

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After logging 36 years as a Mayo nurse in Surgery, Bev has seen firsthand the critical need for donated blood to help patients survive an operation—so much so that now, in semi-retirement, she conducts blood drives as a parish nurse at Zion Lutheran Church in Stewartville. Recently, she organized her seventh blood drive.

Bev, who also works part-time as a technologist, standardized patient actor, and registered nurse at Mayo’s Simulation Center, recalls that her first blood drive was the most stressful because she had to make cold calls to names in the church directory. These days, she is considered an ambassador of her “church family” and has developed a list of donors who have participated in past blood drives—some of whom are actually calling her ahead of time to be scheduled for an upcoming drive.

The drives are also seeing more young people, especially 16- to 17-year-olds, who are donating blood as part of their routine with full support from their parents. Bev also reaches out to other churches within the community, which has been a fruitful way to recruit new registrants for a drive.

Many of the donors have told Bev how much easier it is to give blood within their own community rather than making a longer drive into Rochester. This is good news to Bev who, a few years ago, found out she was no longer eligible to donate her own blood. Hence, the success of these drives is a way for her to still give back to her community and, as she learned from all her years assisting in surgery, continue to help save lives.

To read more stories like this go to Mayo Clinic Blood Donor Program’s Blog Page.

How to Donate
For more information about donating blood in Rochester, Minnesota, call (507) 284-4475 or email donateblood@mayo.edu. Or visit our web page http://www.mayoclinic.org/donateblood.

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Mar 12, 2018 · A Blood Recipient's Story: Drake in Blood Donor Program

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If there’s a fish to be fished, a trail to be discovered, or a toad to be tickled under its chin, Drake is there, forging new outdoor adventures. By the five-year-old’s adventurous spirit, you wouldn’t know that he has a neuronal autoimmune disorder.

“Drake started showing symptoms shortly before his third birthday,” remembers his mother Brooke. “Unfortunately, most of his symptoms were misdiagnosed, and we didn’t get a true diagnosis until May 2017 when we brought him to Mayo Clinic.”

Drake’s antibodies, while fighting off infections as they should, began to mistake a region of his brain as a foreign invader and began attacking it, a condition called autoimmune encephalitis. Symptoms can include inflammation of the brain, slowed speech, cognitive decline, seizures, and abnormal movements. Encephalitis is often caused by a virus or bacteria, but sometimes, its true origin remains a mystery.

Drake is now receiving intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG), a therapy that uses healthy antibodies from donors’ plasma to suppress his overactive immune system. (One bag of IVIG is derived from more than 1,000 blood donors.) This donated plasma has allowed Drake to continue communing with toads and pursuing new Huck Finn-ian adventures.

“Currently, Drake is receiving infusions every four weeks,” says Brooke. “While there is no cure yet for autoimmune encephalitis, we are very thankful and blessed to be able to treat his condition with the IVIG that is so graciously donated by so many, many people.”

To read more stories like this go to Mayo Clinic Blood Donor Program’s Blog Page.

How to Donate
For more information about donating blood in Rochester, Minnesota, call (507) 284-4475 or email donateblood@mayo.edu. Or visit our webpage http://www.mayoclinic.org/donateblood.

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Feb 9, 2018 · A Blood Donor's Story: Najma in Blood Donor Program

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In the nine years that Najma has worked as an interpreter at Mayo Clinic, she has witnessed how precious donated blood can be. It started early in her career, when she was assigned to a patient who needed blood products every other week. The patient was losing blood, and doctors couldn’t determine the cause. While the patient’s case was eventually resolved, it left Najma thinking about the importance of donated blood.

Another patient encounter that stands out in Najma’s mind is a time she interpreted for a mother whose two-hour-old baby required surgery and, consequently, would need blood to save its tiny life.

“Working in a hospital setting, I see, from a clinical side, how many people are in need of blood products,” says Najma. “It inspires me to do what I can do help those in need.”

To do her part, Najma donates blood regularly. She feels a sense of comfort in knowing that because of donors, blood will be available for her, for her family, and for anyone who might need blood someday. And every time Najma donates at the Mayo Clinic Blood Donor Center, the staff members remind her that a “single” unit may help multiple people.

Najma says, “After a donation, I feel proud and think to myself, ‘Hey, I gave something back to my community today.’ It’s a nice feeling to know you are contributing.”

To read more stories like this go to Mayo Clinic Blood Donor Program’s Blog Page.

How to Donate
For more information about donating blood in Rochester, Minnesota, call (507) 284-4475 or email donateblood@mayo.edu. Or visit our webpage http://www.mayoclinic.org/donateblood.

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Jan 17, 2018 · Paying It Forward Comes Full Circle for Jenny in Blood Donor Program

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Baby Eleanor arrived three-and-a-half months too early, after her mother Jenny went into labor for unknown reasons. She weighed only 1 pound, 15 ounces. Because of this, tiny Eleanor spent her next 143 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Mayo Clinic. Her underdeveloped lungs were the biggest issue, along with her eyes (still fused shut) and tiny heart.

“Eleanor received blood draws every day for the first few months and sometimes numerous times a day,” says Jenny. “That amount of blood volume, taken from a baby that small, was a lot for her little body to replenish, especially since she didn’t have a mature system to start with.”

Eleanor needed a total of six blood transfusions during her stay in the NICU. The transfusions helped her with her oxygen-carrying capabilities. They also helped give her the strength she needed to fully recover.

Thankfully, Eleanor went home five weeks after her actual due date. Now she is 14 months old and doing well. “I was so impressed with Eleanor’s nursing team at Mayo, but the entire care team was truly phenomenal,” says Jenny.

“We were fortunate that blood products were available when Eleanor was in need. Thank you to all who have donated; it truly makes a difference.”

Unique to this story, Jenny is a nurse at one of Mayo’s adult ICUs, and she is so passionate about patient care that she selflessly donated her kidney and part of her liver to patients in need. In addition, Jenny is a very dedicated blood donor and advocate for the cause. This is a true example of a story where paying it forward comes full circle.

Eleanor’s two-year birthday is November 17, which also happens to be World Prematurity Day—meant to raise awareness about preterm births or “preemies.” And later this year, Jenny plans to organize a special blood drive in honor of little Eleanor, inviting people to come in and donate blood for others in need.

To read more stories like this go to Mayo Clinic Blood Donor Program’s Blog Page.

How to Donate
For more information about donating blood in Rochester, Minnesota, call (507) 284-4475 or email donateblood@mayo.edu. Or visit our webpage http://www.mayoclinic.org/donateblood.

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