(Robin Ceppos donating at LSU in Baton Rouge, LA)
I helped organize a blood drive at Louisiana State University recently partly because I wanted to help a community organization but, more important, because I received 13 pints of blood when I was ill and want to start giving back.
I received the blood while I spent 17 days in the intensive-care unit of a hospital in Northern California (where I grew up) when I was 15 years old. I was suffering from acute hemorrhagic pancreatitis, a sometimes-fatal disease that often is caused by alcoholism. (Mine was caused by a prescription-drug interaction, not alcohol!)
Seven years later, at age 22, I found myself working on a service-learning project with six other public-relations seniors at LSU in Baton Rouge. The seven of us are working with the Louisiana Center Addressing Substance Abuse in Collegiate Communities during our final semester of our undergraduate degrees. The organization provides programs and research initiatives to foster safe and healthy collegiate communities and eliminate the negative consequences from alcohol consumption and drug abuse.
As a group, we decided that hosting a blood drive made perfect sense because some alcoholics need transfusions, because of pancreatitis, cirrhosis of the liver or other diseases. But, for me, the decision to organize a blood drive was personal. I wouldn’t be alive if others had not decided to give blood.
I gave my first pint of blood on Monday, April 7, 2014. Ms. Beth Chaudoir-Guidry, a representative of LifeShare Blood Centers in Baton Rouge, spent a lot of time planning the blood drive with the seven of us. Ms. Beth helped me decide that I want to give at least 14 pints during my lifetime—to more than pay back the people who saved my life.
Why We Give
(Judy and Sam Brimer from Pollock, LA donating platelets)
Sam and I had a "perfect" life... almost. We've been married for almost 40 years and have three healthy, happy and now grown-up daughters. We owned a business in good times and bad and then (now) great for over 30 years. We gave blood occasionally when a drive was where we happened to be. We were not aware of platelet donations and had no real idea who needed them. We were blissfully in our own world until one day about 10 years ago when we were made keenly aware of the need for platelet donations.
Our granddaughter, who was 4 months old, was diagnosed with cancer. Due to the side effects of chemo, she needed platelets, which were thankfully "available" every three weeks when she needed them. Then one day there was a "platelet" shortage announced which created delays in the children's cancer ward receiving platelets.
Upon looking into platelet donation, we realized how much they were needed, and always in inconvenient times. Scientists can't generate platelets in a lab, so the only way people who need them can get them is if they are given by us - real people with busy, real lives, on holidays, etc. and it requires 2-3 hours away from work. Also, platelets have a really short shelf life (days), so they have to be donated over and over again. Once Sam and I both started giving, we realized that our donations were able to given to babies because of a certain virus we've never had, and we've always been really happy for that one extra blessing of knowing that our donation is helping them. Sure, it's uncomfortable and inconvenient, but it's essential, there's no other way, and the need is always there.
And the person that needs them next can always be you or someone you love. That fact was driven home to us five years later when, unthinkably, another of our granddaughters was diagnosed with cancer and needed platelets throughout her treatment. We were so grateful for those anonymous donors who helped make it possible for our family to have the gift of extra time with our grandchildren. We consider it a blessing to be able to do the same for someone else.
How Helen Inspired a New Donor
My name is Brandon Forgey. I am Helen Forgey's father. I would love to share my story with you and anyone who is on the fence about donating blood.
I am a 31 year old male who for the most part has had a very healthy life. We have three children, a 15 year old son, an 8 year old son, and a 9 year old daughter. On December 11th, 2013 our world was turned upside down. During a routine doctor visit, our doctor told us that something wasn't quite right with Helen's lab results and we were immediately referred to a pediatric hematologist. After many tests were performed, my wife and I were called into a small room followed by a few doctors, a counselor, and a child life specialist. We knew that this could not be good. We were asked to take a seat at a very small table while the doctor and child life specialist sat directly across from us. Then came a moment that would forever change our lives. The doctor looked at us and said, "There is no easy way to tell you this, but your daughter has cancer. She has Leukemia and we have contacted St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, TN, already. They have an ambulance on its way to pick her up, but she needs blood now." This would be the first of many blood and platelets transfusions that she would need in order to survive and live to fight the cancer that is living in her blood and spinal fluid.
Shortly after arriving at St. Jude, Helen started receiving much needed platelets and later that day more blood. None of this would have been possible without all the generous people that have taken time out of their valuable day and faced fears to donate these life-saving units of blood, platelets, and plasma that our daughter so desperately needed. We are forever grateful to them.
After finding time to reflect on all of the events surrounding her diagnosis and beginning of treatment, I made a decision that I will never regret. I decided to give blood. Fortunately, as I was picking up our 8 year old son from school there was a LifeShare bus allowing high school students, teachers, and faculty to donate blood. As I walked by the bus, there was a sign asking donors to tell the staff on the bus if they would like to donate blood in honor of Helen Forgey. Now, I have had a severe phobia of needles that dates back to as far as i can remember and I can not say that it has gotten any better with age, but I said to myself, "what better time to start donating blood then in honor of my daughter." As I entered the LifeShare bus I took a look around to see all of the students on the bus that were donating blood and thought to myself, "If they can do it, surely I can do it." After introducing myself to the ladies on the bus and stating that I have never donated blood before, they swiftly took me in and helped me get started on my journey to giving back to the community a life-saving product that was so graciously donated to our daughter.
As I sat there on the bus waiting my turn, students and teachers, one by one, walked by me and offered me words of encouragement and stated that they had donated in Helen's name. This brought tears to my eyes to see how loved our daughter is and how wonderful the community that we live in is. As it was my turn to sit in the reclining chair, the ladies on the bus understood my fears and were so helpful, reassuring me that everything would be just fine. You know what, they were right. There was no pain. I greatly enjoyed the conversations with the ladies and others on the bus as it helped remind me just why I was in this chair. For everyone that maybe on the fence about donating or everyone that walks by a bus and thinks that they just don't have the time right now to donate, please stop and think about the life that your blood product could go to save. It could be your own child's life, your parents' lives, or even your own. So please don't walk by another bus without thinking about who's life you could possibly be saving.
So many thanks to Mrs. Brittney Meadows, Mrs. Crystal Allen, Mrs. Elain Mathews, Mrs. Andrea Groshong, and LifeShare Blood Centers for helping save people's lives!
My name is Alicia McLelland Gilbert. I am thirty-three years old. I almost did not make it past thirty-two. My life was saved by a blood transfusion. I received six pints of blood at Christus St. Michael Texarkana in August of 2012. I walked into the ER just two hours away from bleeding to death internally.
I had worked the day before and attended a cheerleading competition for my middle daughter. I woke up the next morning feeling weak nauseous, dizzy and I just could not make myself keep going. I saw my local doctor, Dr. Michael Young- a wonderful man and friend. He was very concerned and ran lots of tests, but I was not willing to go to the hospital. I had been a single parent of three for six years working two jobs, and I did not have time to be sick. He sent me home awaiting test results with a shot to make me sleep and feel somewhat comfortable with strict instructions not to be left alone. Thank God in June of that year, I had married the love of my life Ryan and gained two more kids. He was there with me and kept close watch. I was very weak. After a few hours, I went to use the restroom and passed out cold between the bathroom and the bed. My husband then took me to the hospital. The doctor at the ER could not believe I was walking and had worked the day before. I told him, I had no choice my family depended on me. My hemoglobin which is normally a fifteen was a six.
I had been told several months previous that I had two discs in my neck compressing my spinal cord to the extent of numbness, tingling and constant pain. This required surgery to fix, which I didn’t have the time or money for. Steroid injections gave me little or no relief. I was scared of pain medicines and muscle relaxers due to watching people I cared about get hooked on them so easily. I self-medicated by taking over-the-counter ibuprofen and BC powders every day, all day.
I was at least able to function by taking them. However, I had an ulcer from years of worry, stress and not taking care of myself. My only concern was my children, but I didn’t realize that by not taking care of myself, I could have hurt them worse in the long run. My ulcer had become aggravated by the over-the-counter medications I was taking all the time and had begun to bleed. The bleeding had gotten so bad I was literally bleeding to death. The doctor said it was just like a main artery had been cut and was gushing blood. When he asked if I had been feeling bad, I said I've worked two jobs and been a single parent of three, I always felt bad. By the next day, I had received six pints of blood and was feeling better already. I went in for stomach surgery to cauterize the bleeding ulcer that next afternoon.
The blood I received was provided by LifeShare. I now have my life back, my children have their mom and my husband has his wife. I can’t begin to put into words what I feel for LifeShare and their organization. Gratitude, love and the utmost respect don’t even cut it. I am now pursuing my dream career as Marketing Director for the SWAR Division of Hope Healthcare at Prescott Manor Nursing Center in Prescott, Arkansas. I have three daughters Brittney 18, Kenzie 17, Karrigan 14, & two sons Konnor 12, & Colton 7. My family and I live in Prescott, Arkansas. We are just good ol' southern country folk who love life, family, friends, animals and the outdoors. Because of what LifeShare does and the services they provide, we have a chance of seeing so much more together.
Hundreds of Blood Donors Help a Hero
(photo of Capt. Phillip Michael “Mike” Hogan, April 15, 1971 just after his last flight on his first tour of duty in the Vietnam War. A ceremony to celebrate his last flight, Mike had just been sprayed by a fire truck and given a bottle of champagne.)
Born on D-Day, Mike Hogan was raised in Northwest Louisiana and attended Louisiana Tech University before entering the Air Force. In his early 20s, Mike’s service to our country included two combat tours of duty in the Vietnam War. Flying the F4 Phantom, his bravery and service was recognized with 19 air medals and two Distinguished Flying Crosses.
Upon returning to the U.S., Mike found his true love, Trisha
with whom he has three daughters, and he has enjoyed a career in civil engineering and as a financial consultant.
However, in 2007 the physical impact of his service to our country was becoming more aggressive. He was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, a type of a cancer often linked to Agent Orange exposure. Multiple Myeloma is a common form of blood cancer from which about 50 percent of those diagnosed will die within four years.
During cancer treatment, as with many cancer patients, Mike suffered from anemia so severe that he needed blood transfusions to survive. He was given several hundred blood transfusions throughout the course of his treatments at Willis-Knighton and Overton Brooks Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center. In 2011, Mike went to the Mayo Clinic for six weeks to receive Stem Cell Therapy from his own stem cells.
Now, Mike’s cancer is in remission.
After years of his service to our country, blood donors were able to provide a life-saving gift to Mike. He is able to continue enjoying his career; his family has grown to include two granddaughters and a grandson on the way, and he has even authored a book No War for Heroes, which was performed at The Playwrights’ Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, 2011-12 Member Stage Reading Series.
Who uses blood and why?
by Philip Seaman
One out of every seven people who enter the hospital will need blood, but who gets that blood? Blood and its components are used for a number of different medical purposes.
Up to thirty percent of donated blood goes to cancer patients. When a cancer patient goes through chemotherapy their bodies may lose the capability to create certain components of their blood, other times the cancer itself inhibits the production of blood components. These patients rely on volunteer blood donors to continue to try to overcome their condition.
Accidents and burn victims use about twenty five percent of donated blood. Burn victims often receive plasma, the liquid part of the blood, to increase their fluids, and help relieve and heal the burn. Accident patients often receive blood that comes from a universal donor, O- blood type, because there may not be time to determine their blood type.
Fifteen percent of the blood collected goes to heart patients. About one third of every heart surgery will require a blood transfusion. Another fifteen percent of the healthy blood donated will go to stomach or bowel patients. One of the functions of your liver is to regulate the production of platelets. Sometimes a liver does not function correctly and the patient will need transfusions of platelets which is a blood product.
Another reason someone would need blood is if they have a medical condition that causes bleeding, such as hemophilia. Hemophilia is a condition that inhibits the body from clotting blood. Hemophiliacs require regular transfusions of plasma that contain clotting factors missing in the patient's blood.
There are continuous lifesaving uses for your blood donations and just a small portion of them have been covered here. Every two seconds, someone somewhere needs blood, and now you know some of the reasons why.
Emmanuel, J. C., McClelland, B., Page, R., Chisakuta, A., Lackritz, E., & Zetterstrom, H. (n.d.). The Clinical Use of Blood. Retrieved September 20, 2013, from The Clinical Use of Blood: http://www.who.int/bloodsafety/clinical_use/en/
Staff, T. M. (n.d.). Blood Transfusion. Retrieved September 20, 2013, from The Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/blood-transfusion
Who Needs a Blood Transfusion. (n.d.). Retrieved September 20, 2013, from www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health//dci/diseases/bt/bt_whoneeds.html