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Wed, Apr 24 11:36am · Blessed by Giving and Receiving - Mali's Story in Blood Donor Program

Mali blog

When Mali started as a Mayo Clinic employee 24 years ago, she never imagined that her whole career would revolve around blood product in one way or another.

Beginning her career in venipuncture, Mali was then hired as a technician for the Blood Donor Center in 2002, where her responsibilities included drawing units daily from donors while building relationships with them by keeping them comfortable and informed during their donation. While learning the processes of blood collection and testing, she came to understand just how safe the product she was collecting was. At that time, she was also going back to college to earn her registered nurse (RN) degree.

Her next career responsibilities took her to the Infusion Therapy Center (ITC) area, where she would daily watch patients perk up immediately after receiving a unit of blood. She was able to offer them assurance of the safety of the blood product they were receiving, having worked at the Blood Donor Center herself. “It was very reassuring to my patients when I would share with them my knowledge of the testing the blood they were receiving had already been through. I even told them that I would feel extremely comfortable having my kids receive blood here at Mayo Clinic, knowing of the careful and thorough processing it goes through before it gets to the patient,” Mali shares.

Recently Mali has returned to a nursing role at the Mayo Clinic Blood Donor Center, taking her career in a full circle. She found that after having worked with the patients who receive the blood, she had a whole new perspective. “Now being back here as a Resource Nurse, I have a face that I see in each unit of blood. A unit of blood means so much more to me, because I had so many patients who I transfused it to. It was helpful for me to have seen the people who it affected and really made a difference for,” she reflects.

Mali’s experience with medical struggles began long before she started her career at Mayo Clinic. At age 11, she was diagnosed with type I diabetes. A typical day involved constant monitoring of her blood sugars. She mastered this practice with the help of her insulin pump, controlling her disease beautifully for about 32 years, but then she began experiencing an increased fluctuation with her levels’ highs and lows. It wasn’t until her daughter tearfully shared with her, “Mom, I worry every night that you won’t wake up in the morning,” that she realized her condition was not only an inconvenience for her, but it was affecting those closest to her by causing them worry and stress. It was then that she decided to discuss her options for a pancreas transplant.

Waitlisted on the transplant list for 15 months, Mali was elated when she received the call that her care team had a pancreas for her. On January 26, 2017, at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, Mali’s life changed forever—and for the better.

Everything with the actual transplant went fine, but post-surgery Mali experienced a bowel obstruction that kept her hospitalized and closely monitored for a five-week stay at Mayo Clinic. “Since my transplant, I haven’t needed any insulin nor have I had to check my blood sugars. The transplant worked perfectly,” Mali shares. She now feels extremely free—in the past, sugar such as glucose tablets and raisins had to be within reach at all times. “I didn’t know any other way of life.”

Although Mali never received blood product during her pancreas transplant, she says, “I received an organ, so it’s kind of the same thing, and I tell people all of the time that I am a transplant patient.” She doesn’t share this with those she comes into contact with to get a “Wow!” reaction, but to prove that you never know when someone you meet has been blessed with a successful transplant. She hopes to help them recognize the lifesaving difference that an organ or blood transfusion can make in someone’s life.

Mali and her family have taken that message to heart. “At the one-year anniversary of my transplant, I really wanted to donate blood, but I could not due to my low hemoglobin. My daughter came in with me that day and donated for her second time in order to celebrate my special day. My children are all organ donors and try to donate blood whenever they can.”

In fact, just a few weeks ago in April, which is also Donate Life Month, Mali was excited to have met the criteria and successfully donated blood once again to our patients.

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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Dec 26, 2018 · A Story of Two Blood Donors: Mark and Dave in Blood Donor Program

Dave and Mark

Mark and Dave have nurtured a competitive camaraderie since connecting at a marathon in 2006. The two have since run numerous events together, including a 50-mile Zumbro Endurance Run. “Mark and I ran the 50-mile race the day after my father’s funeral,” remembers Dave. “Mark had been at the funeral for me, and he helped read some of the eulogy I had prepared when it was tough for me to continue.”

They run together weekly, year-round. “It’s a great time to share personal stories and encourage one another,” says Dave. “We use the time to discuss life, bounce ideas off each other, and re-center our perspectives,” says Mark.

Mark and Dave have other common ground: Both of their fathers had cancer, and both share a strong Christian faith—the two meet with a group of guys every other Tuesday for Bible study. And finally, both have been donating blood at Mayo’s Blood Donor Center for many years. That too, has turned into a contest. To date, both have surpassed the 300 donation mark.

Mark was first inspired to donate at the age of 16 after witnessing how the gift of blood helped his father who was going through cancer treatments. For Dave, donating honors his own father who donated 13 gallons of blood to the American Red Cross during his lifetime.

Both men have potentially impacted more than 1,000 lives by giving generously in the spirit of altruism. The “blood brothers” describe their story as one about faith, family, fitness, and friendship. “It’s just a friendly type of competition and a reminder for us of our commitment to helping others,” says Dave.

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 20, 2018 · When You Give Blood, You Give Someone Another Holiday - Joanna's Story in Blood Donor Program

Resized Joanna's Blog

Her 63 surgeries, over 100 blood transfusions, and more than 10 rare medical conditions don’t stop Joanna from being optimistic and grateful for life.

When Joanna was just 15 years old, doctors discovered her brain was herniated at the base of her skull, which caused a large cyst in her spinal cord. By age 18, she had been diagnosed with another four conditions and had already undergone 12 brain and spine surgeries. This was the start of Joanna’s long medical journey – one that is still ongoing today at the age of 33.

While each of Joanna’s conditions has a different set of symptoms, they all affect each other, causing each one to behave differently than it would on its own. Her physicians describe it as the perfect storm—you can never just treat one condition, and you have to factor in how the other conditions will react before deciding on treatment.

One of Joanna’s conditions is a buildup of excess cerebrospinal fluid in her brain. For years, Joanna has had a shunt, which is a medical device implanted in her brain to relieve pressure by diverting the excess fluid to her heart. Shunts generally last anywhere from several years to a lifetime, but Joanna’s shunt required replacement every 3 to 6 months, and each brain surgery to replace it got increasingly difficult and dangerous. In the spring of 2012, Joanna’s care team in Atlanta contacted Mayo Clinic for help determining why her shunt was failing much more than normal.

Joanna’s first trip to Mayo Clinic in April 2012 included testing and consultations with nine different departments. Joanna finally received an answer after a visit to the Hematology Department. After many tests, she was diagnosed with an autoimmune blood-clotting disorder that was causing tiny blood clots to form around the tip of her shunt, which stopped it from being able to drain properly and led to failure. No one had ever seen this condition cause this kind of complication before, but her team at Mayo Clinic decided to begin treatment in the hopes that it would help. There is no cure for Joanna’s condition, but it can be treated with blood thinners that make it hard for the body to develop blood clots. Joanna has been giving herself anticoagulant injections every day since her diagnosis.

Facing emergency brain surgery every few months, Joanna found it difficult to live day to day and plan for the future. However, the diagnosis that she received at Mayo Clinic saved and changed her life. Her shunt has continued working since she began treatments, and this is the longest she has ever gone without needing brain surgery to replace the shunt.

Joanna had a couple stable and wonderful years following that diagnosis, despite the chronic conditions that she continued to manage.  That changed suddenly in 2015 when Joanna was hit by a large delivery truck. This incident resulted in injuries that required her to have emergency brain surgery, as well as a shoulder injury that eventually progressed to having almost no use of her right arm. She returned to Mayo Clinic earlier this year and underwent a major surgery for her shoulder with the Orthopedic Department, which included a triple-tendon transfer and a scapuloplexy. She spent the four months following the operation immobilized in an upper-body brace, but she is happy to report that she now has more use of her right arm than she has had since the accident.

While Joanna recovers from her surgeries and lives with many chronic symptoms, she remains positive and optimistic about life. She is thankful for her wonderful support system and the dedicated support of her health care team.

“I am especially grateful for the innovative and advanced diagnosis that I have received, along with Mayo Clinic’s expertise in treating rare and complicated conditions. I do not believe that I  would still be here without the help of Mayo Clinic” said Joanna.

Joanna receives frequent blood transfusions, so she is able to celebrate the holidays with her family. Because of this, her family members make a point to donate at the Mayo Clinic Blood Donor Center whenever they are in Rochester for her checkups or surgeries. In fact, in March of this year when Joanna was a patient at Saint Marys, her parents and husband all donated on the exact same day she received a blood transfusion. They know firsthand the importance of blood donation, as it has helped to save Joanna’s life more than once.

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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Oct 22, 2018 · Meet the Team: Sara in Blood Donor Program

Meet the team - SaraSara has been a technician with the Mayo Clinic Blood Donor Program for almost seven years! Her first day landed on February 29, 2012, which actually was Leap Year, and she has been an asset to our team ever since.  She is very dedicated to her role as a Blood Donor Technician and ‘leaps’ into any projects she is asked to be a part of in order to successfully meet the needs of our team and our patients.

When she was asked about which aspects she enjoys most about the role she serves on our team immediately without hesitation she replied, “The Donors!  Each one is here for their own reasons, and it is interesting to hear why they donate… and visit about anything else they might wish to share with me.  I learn something new every day from one of my donors.”

Sara shares a memorable moment that stands out in her mind that occurred while offering her platelet donor refreshments before starting his draw.  Her donor said, “Black coffee, water and a chocolate chip cookie.”  I repeated his request back to him saying, “Black water, coffee and a chocolate chip cookie.”  I didn’t realize my mistake at first until I heard the laughter!  From now on when I draw this donor, he always makes sure to ask me for his black water!

Not only is Sara a wonderful employee, but she also excels as a mother to her three children: Camden who is 8 months old, Mason (stepson) who is 9 years old and Bodey (her other stepson) who is 12 years old.

When asked what she enjoyed doing in her free time, she responded, “I really enjoy fishing!  Since I was a baby, we have always spent our summer vacation at Cass Lake.  Also, at 13 years old, my parents took me, my two older sisters and my brother on a trip to California.  I still remember the excitement of seeing the ocean for the very first time!  We also went through Yosemite National Park and the Sequoia and Red Wood National parks.  I can’t wait until I am able to take my family out there to experience these adventures for themselves!

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Sep 27, 2018 · A Donor's Story: Keith in Blood Donor Program


Keith didn’t let long distance get in the way of true love. He also knew full well that his then-girlfriend Karen would eventually need a liver transplant. Even so, in 2001, he moved to River Falls, Wisconsin, to be near her while she attended college. Soon after, Karen’s symptoms from her liver disease, primary sclerosing cholangitis, required her to undergo a liver transplant at Mayo Clinic. Karen was just 22.

The two were married in 2005 and moved to West Central, Illinois. The following year, Karen suffered a bowel obstruction that required three surgeries.

A welcomed blessing came in 2013, when Karen gave birth to Nathan—named after Karen’s liver donor. But, again, Karen’s health down-spiraled and, in 2016, she required a second liver transplant and a kidney transplant.

Rewind back to 2008. While at Mayo with his wife, Keith decided to donate blood at the Mayo Clinic Blood Donor Center.

“It was handy to donate, as someone who is already there with a patient,” he says. “It was something that I was able to do without causing any delay in my wife’s appointments.”

Since then, whenever the couple visits Mayo, Keith continues to donate in his wife’s honor. As for Karen? She is currently doing well and on her way to recovery.

“I know that I will never be able to give back the amount of blood it has taken to keep my wife alive,” Keith adds. “But if I can help Mayo Clinic provide blood for their patients, then I am more than glad to.”

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

Do you have a story about the impact that blood donation has played in your life? If so, call (507) 284-4475 or send us an email at donateblood@mayo.edu. We would love to hear your story!

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Jul 18, 2018 · A Blood Recipient's Story: Kathy in Blood Donor Program

Kathy and Hanna blog size 7

Pregnant with her second child, Kathy returned home after a family gathering and noticed something wasn’t right. Her husband Mike called Mayo Clinic, and he was told to bring her in right away. Because Kathy was considered high risk, she spent the next seven weeks in a hospital bed on the Labor and Delivery floor so she could be closely monitored.

After those seven weeks, Kathy was induced into labor. Unfortunately, she suffered from placenta accreta, a condition that occurs when blood vessels and other parts of the placenta grow too deeply into the uterine wall. The condition caused severe blood loss, requiring her medical team to perform an emergency cesarean hysterectomy.

“They had to remove my uterus in order to save my life,” she says. The many units of donated blood and plasma that Kathy was given also helped save her life.

Baby Hanna was born at 32 weeks. She was tiny, but healthy. Kathy credits their survival to the power of love, her faith, her family, her health care team, and all of the donated blood she received. When Hanna turned 16 last year, she started donating blood (as did her older brother Brady) to perhaps save another mother in need as their own mother was saved.

“I can’t think of a greater gift than blood,” says Kathy. “Blood cannot be manufactured; it takes donors to fulfill the blood supply need for patients who desperately require it. For those wondering if they are making a difference by donating blood, I hope they think of our story.” Kathy and Hanna are living proof that blood donations can save 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 31, 2018 · So We're a Little Late . . . Let's Take a Look back at 2017 in Blood Donor Program

The Mayo Clinic Blood Donor Center had a great year in 2017,  filled with many changes and growth. Looking back on 2017, we decided to put together a fun graphic with some Blood Donor Program statistics. Take a look at some demographics of our donors at the Blood Donor Center as well as some Olmsted County demographics.

Final Demographic blog

We are so thankful for all of our dedicated donors who visit the Mayo Clinic Blood Donor Center. One statistic that stands out is the number of new donors we had in 2017. We added a total of 1,347 new donors to our blood donor family, a 46% increase from 2016.

Comparing our statistics with the 2010 Census of the Olmsted County Community, we found that our diversity is similar, which makes sense. In speaking with our medical director at the Mayo Clinic Blood Donor Center, he explained why it is so important to have a diverse donor pool.

“There is a need for blood from minority populations,” says Justin Kreuter, M.D., Medical Director of the Blood Donor Program. “For medical reasons, it’s important to have diversity represented in our donor center because we have a very international patient population.”

Our goal for 2018 is to grow our donor population and add more people to our blood donor family at Mayo Clinic.

Do our demographics surprise you? Comment below with your thoughts.

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

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Jan 31, 2018 · Blood Donation Led to Early Cancer Diagnosis in Blood Donor Program

Kim and Sabrina Hernandez edited

The Mayo Clinic Blood Donor Program family recently added two new donors to the family. Kim and Sabrina decided to donate while they were visiting Rochester, Minnesota. It was at Josie’s request (Kim’s daughter and Sabrina’s sister) that the two came in for a visit. Josie has been an avid blood donor since she was just 16. Now 20, Josie is an advocate for blood donation. While at her blood donation appointment, Josie was told that her pulse was very high—deferring her from donating that day. Her technician suggested that she visit her health care provider as soon as possible.

Josie took her technician’s advice and went to see her clinician the next day. After running several tests, her provider diagnosed her with thyroid cancer. Josie has been receiving radiation treatment and has been fighting cancer for a little over a year now. Even though she is going through this difficult time, she is still advocating for blood donation. She credits the process of blood donation for helping to catch the cancer. Thyroid cancer typically does not have any signs or symptoms early on, so it can be hard to detect.

The process of blood donation includes a review of the person’s medical history and a mini-physical examination. The potential donor’s pulse, blood pressure, and temperature are checked to make sure that he or she is in good health to donate.

While Josie continues her fight with thyroid cancer, she still is stressing the importance of blood donation. You never know when you or a family member could be in need of the precious gift of blood.

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

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

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