Blood Center

Lives Saved

Living with Hereditary Spherocytosis

By Sinead Borgersen, Coordinator for Nimsoft Blood Drives

My two-year-old son Faelan has a hereditary red blood cell fragility disorder called hereditary spherocytosis. He inherited it from me and I inherited from my mother with another of my siblings. His red blood cells are fragile and spherical in shape instead of the normal donut shape due to a defective gene that causes the shell to be misshapen, like a pole missing in a tent. His red blood cells live a shorter life and the spleen becomes enlarged as it attacks the red blood cells, causing them to live a very shortened lifespan of 3-10 days. So he is anemic and fatigues easily.

Although rare, it’s one of the most common blood disorders for children. We were the first to be diagnosed ever at our hospital when he was born and ended up educating the doctors/nurses on what the disease was. We got them in contact with Dr. Glader, a pediatric hematologist at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital (LPCH), as I knew my children may get the disease and so was prepared beforehand. Thanks to our education of the staff where he was born, they referred another three families in less than a year to the hematology clinic at LPCH where the families didn’t know their child had the blood disorder.

When he was born we spent 32 days in the hospital with pathological jaundice and anemic crisis. Although his anemia is continually monitored with blood tests, much lower red blood cell production (aplastic crisis) can be easily caused by many viral infections, which can make anemia worse.

I also have this disorder and it is treated by removal of the spleen and gallbladder, normally at age five (gallstones are a complication of the early breakdown of the red cells). However, until he reaches age five, he is at risk for normal viruses putting him into anemic crisis. Faelan is lucky as he has stabilized somewhat but his 14-month-old cousin also has the disorder and has just received his tenth blood transfusion.

Faelan’s Blood Use

Common childhood viruses have caused Faelan’s hemoglobin to dip to five and below (should be 13-17 in children). So he has needed immediate emergency transfusions. To date Faelan has received three full blood transfusions that literally saved his life. He had gone into anemic crisis where he becomes like a rag doll, pale as a ghost, you can see right through his ears, he can’t lift his head, can’t feed, can’t even cry for what he needs. One of the signs is that he is hard to wake, very sleepy and not responsive. Most parents love that their kids nap or are good sleepers – we have to be careful of him napping too long or being hard to wake as it’s often before he gets sick. Sometimes his hemoglobin dips to eight and he is borderline for a transfusion at which point we wait to see how he responds to medicine or steroids.

The bag of blood though, is like a battery – just charges him right up! I see him pink right up, get more alert, start feeding and getting ready to explore like any normal toddler. When you see him running around and joking and sitting on his brother wrestling, it’s hard to believe he has gotten so sick. We are very blessed as we know it could be a lot worse and it’s very manageable. It’s only manageable, though, because strangers donated blood to give to children like Faelan. Without those magic batteries – he wouldn’t be alive. When he gets his spleen out he will also need a lot of extra blood in the OR and at any time that he gets too sick. I can’t donate as I have the same disorder plus my time in Ireland disqualifies me due to mad cow scare. My husband is in a different blood group than Faelan so we literally depend on the generous hearts and blood of strangers.

How I got involved as a blood drive coordinator

I’m the Senior HR Business Partner for Nimsoft, a CA technologies company in Campbell. One of my staff mentioned that there was a bloodmobile at one of our Redwood City offices, so I thought it would be great to organize a local drive at work. Many people want to give – they just don’t have time to go off during the day so bringing it to them seemed the right way to go.

I contacted Stanford Blood Center and my real estate management team at Pruneyard – Equity and asked them to all come to a meeting. We planned a date for May 2012, I got set up as a coordinator, and got the ball rolling. I asked my husband to design a T-shirt we could give away as I knew that would be a good draw. (Below, Faelan wears the shirt proudly.)

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I advertised on Facebook setting up an event, put it on LinkedIn, Twitter, and G+, sent notice at work, and sent details of Faelan’s story to local newspapers for Campbell. I also emailed everyone I knew and asked them to spread the word even if they couldn’t donate. Pruneyard - Equity put up posters at work and sent out notice to tenants. Before we had the posters up I had all appointments full and had to ask they extend the drive and bring more staff. We had a great first drive and had to turn away folks. The t-shirts and giveaways were a big hit and I’m hoping we do as well for our next drive on August 14. I know August is harder but we’re at 30 appointments now for the goal of 31. Be great if we could fill all 48 slots.

I can’t donate myself but like I said that doesn’t stop me from getting others out to do this. My sister, dad and the others in our family who can donate – donate every eight weeks like clockwork. My dad was awarded a special pelican statue in Ireland years ago at a special award dinner with our Irish president for donating the gallons he has donated over the years. So it’s in our blood to donate for sure ☺

Granulocyte Infusions Saved Little Katelyn

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By Dr. Jennifer Andrews, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pathology (Transfusion Medicine) and Pediatrics (Hematology/Oncology)

When I first met Katelyn Do, she had already been diagnosed by my Pediatric Hematology colleagues with severe aplastic anemia. That means essentially that her bone marrow was no longer producing any blood cells, including white blood cells (in charge of fighting infections), red blood cells (in charge of carrying oxygen to all the organs in the body) and platelets (in charge of stopping any bleeding). Her doctors had started chemotherapy to help cure her of this disease, and those medications also decreased all of her blood counts. She was admitted to the hospital last fall for a very severe infection of her skin called an abscess. She was being treated with very strong antibiotics given by an IV but her infection was just not getting better. Her doctors consulted me in the Transfusion Medicine service at the hospital to start granulocyte (a type of white blood cell especially adept at fighting bacterial infections like abscesses) infusions to help her fight this infection. When physicians prescribe them, it means there really is no other treatment available. They are a ‘last ditch effort’ to fight off infection.

Thanks to Stanford Blood Center staff and donors, I was able to arrange granulocyte collection for the next day. Special thanks go to the regular platelet donors. The staff at Stanford Blood Center was easily able to call three donors in their platelet donor program that had blood types compatible with Katelyn, and they were able to donate precious granulocytes for her.

Katelyn received granulocyte infusions for three days (one infusion per day), and her infection rapidly improved. She was able to go home from the hospital, and now eight months after I met her, she is doing very well on only one oral chemotherapy medicine that she is able to take every day at home. Some children with severe aplastic disease don’t respond to chemotherapy at all and need a bone marrow transplant, but Katelyn has responded very well and will not need a transplant. She is a very active little girl, and has returned to her normal activities and ‘life as usual’ at home.

It’s because of the donors at Stanford Blood Center and treatment with chemotherapy by her doctors that Katelyn is still alive. Her infection was cured because of those granulocyte infusions. Also, during the course of her chemotherapy treatments, she has received both red blood cell and platelet transfusions to help her get better.

Blood donors, thank you so very much for donating life-saving products!

“Blood Donors Saved My Life”

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By Michele Hyndman, Public Relations Manager, Stanford Blood Center

"It cannot be a coincidence that World Blood Donor Day is June 14. The same day my life was saved by donated blood. Amazing!"
-Melissa Price

On June 6, 2011, Melissa and her husband, Tim, and 3-year-old son, Flynn, welcomed twin boys, Keane and Hayes, into their family. Melissa's pregnancy and delivery had been normal. The twins were healthy and together weighed over 14 pounds which is considered big for twins. After a typical recovery period, Melissa went home to care for her family. "To me, my family was perfect and complete," she said.

However, eight days after the birth, Melissa began to hemorrhage at home while getting ready to take the twins to see their pediatrician. Melissa's mom drove her to Stanford Hospital. At her insistence, Tim took the twins to their appointment while Flynn played at the park with his nanny.

At Stanford, the bleeding was unstoppable. Melissa was rushed to the operating room. She woke up five hours later in agony and confused. "Turns out, things went from bad to worse to way worse in the operating room. My doctor performed an emergency surgery to save my life," said Melissa.

Melissa had lost two liters of blood. During the surgery, she was given four units of red blood cells and several units of additional blood products. The next day, her doctor ordered two more units of red blood cells at her bedside. It was transfused while she lay awake thinking about the people who had donated blood for her. "Because of blood donors, I am alive," she thought. "True, my doctor made life-saving decisions, but in the end what I needed to survive was blood. And thanks to complete strangers, my children have their mom."

Melissa works at Palo Alto Medical Foundation as a pediatric audiologist. Before her medical emergency, she remembers walking by red balloons and a sign announcing blood drives for Stanford Blood Center at least a dozen times. To her, it was just another blood drive. It was her husband and sister who were active blood donors. When Melissa sees those signs now, she has a new perspective on the importance of a plentiful blood supply.

At a recent Stanford Blood Center donor event, she had this emotional message for blood donors:

"Thank you, donors. Thank you for giving Flynn the opportunity to hold my hand on the way to his first day of preschool. And thank you for giving Hayes and Keane the opportunity to fall asleep to my lullabies. There are times when my mind goes back to that day and thinks 'What if it had gone the other way? What if I had not survived?' It is then that I look at my children and remind myself, 'It went this way.'

“On May 5, I celebrated another birthday and then a week later Mother's day. I had these days because of people like you. I am honored to be in your presence. I am in awe of your kindness, your selflessness. Don't ever forget what your gift means not only to the recipient, but also to their families. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for my life."

Chronic illness in childhood: One patient’s story

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By Erin Digitale, Writer for Stanford School of Medicine’s Communications & Public Affairs Department

Rahman Humphries was trying to pass a 100-yard swimming test on his way to becoming an Eagle Scout. He dreamed of achieving the highest award that the Boy Scouts offer, but he was struggling to make the distance.

“I could barely finish half," said the Santa Clara youth, who goes by the name Rahm, explaining how he became too fatigued to continue. Such a swim can be a challenge for many kids, but it was particularly daunting for Rahm: He suffers from sickle cell anemia, and too much physical exertion can have serious consequences.

Rahm, though, didn’t want to give up, and he had a support team at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital to help him manage this painful disease. They worked together to develop safe ways to tackle physical challenges of the Scouting program. For instance, pediatric hematologist Michael Jeng, MD, approved a conditioning plan that helped Rahm earn his swimming merit badge.

"I had swimming lessons, practiced for a year and re-took it," Rahm said.

In February, the end result of all this work was readily apparent when Rahm, now 14 years old, received his Eagle Scout award. Sitting near his mom, Natasha, were two other proud guests: Jeng and Packard Children's nurse practitioner Judie Lea, both of whom have cared for the new Eagle Scout for many years. Lea has been Rahm's nurse practitioner since his infancy.

Rahm has the most severe form of sickle cell anemia, known as Hemoglobin SS, a genetic disease of the red blood cells. In this condition, physical stressors such as intense exercise can trigger painful "sickle cell crises" that carry a risk of serious complications, including strokes and pneumonia. After years of helping Rahm and Natasha manage these risks, Jeng and Lea knew that the Eagle Scout award represented an even bigger achievement for Rahm than for most other boys.

"Dr. Jeng has become almost a family member," Natasha said. "He knows Rahm has limits, but he also knows it's important to me that Rahm doesn't see sickle cell anemia as a handicap. Dr. Jeng tries to enable him as much as possible."

For Rahm, that means that in spite of living with a chronic illness, he has room to be ambitious. For much of his nine years in the Boy Scouts, he has wanted to earn the Eagle Scout rank. "I looked at all the older Scouts having adventures and thought it would be really cool,” Rahm said.

Sickle cell anemia is caused by a gene mutation affecting the red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body. In the disease, low oxygen levels can trigger the red blood cells to change from their usual round shape to a pointed, sickle-like shape. The pointed cells clog tiny blood vessels and hinder normal blood flow, which causes the sickle cell crises.

Rahm, Natasha and Jeng carefully considered any activity that might trigger a crisis, such as those involving intense physical exertion, possible dehydration, very cold weather or high altitudes. Rahm had one severe sickle cell crisis in third grade, when he became dehydrated at a school sports day and landed in the hospital for two weeks. As he grew older and took on more responsibility for his own health, he was increasingly aware that he didn't want to repeat that.

Jeng recalled the challenges of a Scout trip to Tahoe. "Rahm was very nervous about the altitude with going snowboarding and skiing," he said. "We debated how safe it was and discussed what kinds of things he should take along." The planning paid off: Rahm now says snowboarding is one of the most enjoyable things he has done with his Scout troop.

Fortunately, thanks in part to Rahm's comprehensive care from Packard Children's, his medical situation did not define the experience in Boy Scouts. Most of the time, instead of thinking about sickle cell anemia, Rahm was having fun with his Scouting buddies, figuring out how to earn the 21 merit badges the Eagle Scout award requires -- in subjects ranging from world citizenship to environmental science to camping to medicine -- or working on his Eagle project, in which he designed and built nine cat condos for a local branch of the Humane Society.

"I liked the community Scouting fostered between the boys," Natasha said. "Portola Valley Troop 64 has been our village."

The community at Packard Children's has been significant to Rahm and Natasha, too. "I think a strong partnership with your health practitioner is important," Natasha said. "I have certainly appreciated from Dr. Jeng that he allows me to partner with him. He always takes the time to explain things to us."

And Jeng is proud of what Rahm has been able to accomplish. "Patients who deal with this type of chronic disease really have to keep pushing themselves to take care of themselves," he said. "Rahm has gone far beyond that, and it's great to see."

This article adapted from material provided by the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Casey’s Rocky Start

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By Julie Ruel, Social Media Manager, Stanford Blood Center

Casey Rockey was born with supravalvular aortic stenosis, a rare heart condition that causes a narrowing of his aortic valve at the opening. He required beta blockers for a year to manage his stenosis and tachycardia and, at age three and a half, it was time for open-heart surgery.

As any mother would be, Casey’s mom, Deborah, remembers feeling anxious about his surgery but was touched by the number of people who volunteered to give blood. “I spoke with someone at the Blood Center who reminded that the blood donors are all non-paid individuals who volunteer their time to help those in the community and that really put me at ease.”

The Rockeys found a top pediatric heart surgeon at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital and they received amazing support from him and the staff there. The operation was a success and Casey no longer requires synthetic implements in his body.

While recovering in the NICU, Casey received two special gifts; platelets from the volunteer donors helped his clotting and physical recovery, and, as a prescription for brightening his spirit, a hospital volunteer brought a stuffed companion to his room. Provided by volunteers from the Senior Center in Los Altos, Casey’s special sock monkey continues to hang out with him today.

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Casey hasn’t let his heart problems slow him down. The multi-talented young man, now 12, plays piano, violin, and trumpet, and is passionate about sports. “He’s a talented, caring, and incredible person,” says his proud mother. “And he’s alive today because of blood donors.”

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Transplants for Two: Twins Get New Livers to Treat Rare Disease

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Twins Sophia and Charlotte Gonzalez required numerous blood transfusions as newborns and again during their recent liver transplants. The below article is by Erin Digitale, Writer for Stanford School of Medicine’s Communications & Public Affairs Department.

In a small room at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, Megan and Ricky Gonzalez each held one hand of their daughter Sophia, comforting her as she recovered from a Nov. 8 liver transplant. Near Sophia’s crib, her identical twin, Charlotte, babbled happily in the girls’ double stroller. Charlotte was waiting her turn — which came Nov. 27 — for her own liver transplant to treat the metabolic disease that nearly killed both girls as newborns.

Sophia and Charlotte Gonzalez, now 17 months old, were born with a rare genetic disorder that inhibits the body’s ability to break down protein and some fats. They are among the only known pairs of twins with their condition, a severe form of methylmalonic acidemia that typically causes the liver and kidneys to fail by early adolescence. The disorder has the potential to cause catastrophic brain damage at any point in life.

Packard Children’s is among a handful of institutions pioneering the treatment the girls received: They received unusually early liver transplants to ward off the disease’s worst effects.

“It’s like stacking the deck in the child’s favor,” said Gregory Enns, MD, the twins’ biochemical geneticist, explaining why he advocated early transplants. Sophia and Charlotte were already pulled back from the edge of catastrophe when test results from California’s Newborn Screening Program arrived just in time to let their physicians intervene before the disease got out of control. Now, by giving the girls livers with normal metabolism, Enns hopes to avoid irreversible damage to their kidneys and brains.

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When Megan and Ricky’s twins were born in September 2010, the babies seemed healthy. But after a few days in the hospital, they were lethargic, feeding poorly and losing worrisome amounts of weight. Then Sophia’s newborn screening results showed severe metabolic problems. Just in time, the San Mateo family was referred to Packard Children’s.

“Dr. Enns said if it had been another day, they might have not made it,” Megan said.

“They were already starting to slip into comas as we got to Packard,” Ricky added.

Without the results of the newborn screening tests, the girls would probably have been misdiagnosed with sepsis, received the wrong treatment and died, Enns said.

Instead, diagnostic testing at Packard Children’s state-of-the-art biochemical genetics lab confirmed that Sophia and Charlotte have an inherited defect in an enzyme that works at the crossroads of several metabolic pathways, including those that handle four of the 20 amino acid “building blocks” of protein.

The defect caused the girls’ blood methylmalonic acid levels to shoot up to several thousand times normal. Their bodies also couldn’t process ammonia, a byproduct of protein breakdown, so its blood levels spiked, too. Sky-high acid and ammonia levels can each cause severe, permanent brain damage or death. Fortunately, the biochemical genetics team at Packard Children’s lowered the girls’ levels of the toxins.

“This is a strange disease,” Enns said, likening its management to “walking a tightrope of metabolic balance.” After the first crisis was averted, the girls consumed a carefully monitored low-protein diet and took medications to lower their acid and ammonia levels. But even with expert care, anything that upset their metabolism — such as a cold or other minor illness — could have thrown off their fragile metabolic balance, causing catastrophic brain damage.

“These kids are ticking time bombs in many ways, especially when they get an infection,” Enns said.

The constant threat of brain damage prompted the team to consider the unusual step of putting both girls on the transplant waiting list at the same time.

“It’s controversial to transplant two siblings so close together because you’re putting family under so much stress,” said Carlos Esquivel, MD, PhD, who performed both transplant surgeries. “But on the other hand, if you don’t do that and one kid has hyperammonia and ends up with brain damage, you never forgive yourself.”

Fortunately, the Gonzalez family has strong support networks and could care for both twins during their recoveries.

The surgeries presented special challenges because the girls’ disease made their tissues fragile. The transplant team also had to be alert to the possibility that surgical stress could itself trigger a metabolic crisis. But the procedures went well, and Sophia and Charlotte have made strong recoveries.

“We’re just so thankful and grateful to the families that donated their children’s livers to my girls,” Megan said.

Although the transplants didn’t cure the girls’ disease, they greatly lowered the risk of brain-damaging metabolic crises. The transplanted livers function normally and, because ammonia is processed only in the liver, the girls are now safe from toxic ammonia spikes. Their acid levels will be significantly lower than before transplant, but still above normal, and they will have to follow restricted diets and take medication. In short, their overall prognosis is much improved.

“Early liver transplants are the best treatment we have for these children today,” Enns said. Though he cautioned that the approach is too new to be certain of its long-term benefits, he said that methylmalonic acidemia patients are “much less brittle” after transplant: “They’re not in the hospital as often, and their metabolic crises are much easier to treat.”

Sophia went home from the hospital in early December and Charlotte arrived home on Christmas morning.

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Megan and Ricky are already seeing the beneficial effects of the girls’ changed metabolism, particularly in Sophia, whose recovery is a little further along. “Sophia is crawling, sitting up on her own, standing up and holding onto stuff, and doing a lot of babbling,” Megan said. “She wasn’t doing that at all before. As soon as she started feeling better at home, she started hitting all these milestones. It’s just incredible.”

This article adapted from material provided by the Stanford University School of Medicine.

But I Was in Such a Good Mood This Morning!

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Rob Henslin is a bone marrow transplant survivor and close friend of Stanford Blood Center. He spends much of his time volunteering for the national bone marrow registry, inspiring audiences with his story, and making amazing plates of brownies.

In 1989, just six months after marrying my young bride, I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. My wife and I were thrust into the world of cancer, and we watched our hopes and dreams shatter in an instant. At twenty-six years of age, I was told by doctors at the City of Hope National Medical Center that my prognosis was “poor.” But after nearly a year and a half of intensive chemotherapy, brain radiation, bone marrow biopsies and countless other procedures, I emerged on the other side of my disease, in remission and thankful for the blessing of each new day.

Thanks in large part to the numerous transfusions of whole blood, platelets, and plasma I received both as an inpatient and over the course of my outpatient treatment, I was given a second chance at life. My wife and I were granted an opportunity to grow our young relationship; a relationship that had been strained by changing roles and responsibilities, when I became the patient, and my wife became my caregiver.

When I first learned I had leukemia, I was told that because of the nature of chemotherapy, my wife and I would most likely not be able to have children. But in 1992, we were blessed with a miracle daughter. Two years later, a second daughter joined our family, and I began to entertain thoughts that perhaps I was out of the woods, that the cancer monkey asleep on my back might not ever awaken from his long slumber.

But the monkey did wake up. After nearly twenty years in remission, my leukemia returned. On October 20, 2008, I learned the grim news and was told I would need a bone marrow transplant to have any chance of long-term survival. Following several months of chemotherapy and a series of spinal taps, I received the best Christmas gift ever—news that not one but four bone marrow donors had been found; all perfect matches across the ten genetic markers used to assess potential donor compatibility.

I received my bone marrow transplant on February 10, 2009, at Stanford Hospital’s E1 Transplant Unit. After 48 days in isolation I was discharged to begin a long road to recovery. I faced numerous setbacks and complications in that journey, but after two and half years, I am thankful to be alive, and to have the opportunity to return to some semblance of a normal life. But I will never be the same.

I spent the better part of my professional career working in the graphic arts, publishing, and marketing communications fields. I still have a passion for my craft, but after my cancer odyssey, I find myself drawn to pay it forward—to do everything I can to help other cancer patients and those in need of a bone marrow transplant. I volunteer my time to assist the Be The Match National Marrow Registry, registering potential donors at drive events and speaking on behalf of the organization as well. I also donate my time to help the Stanford Blood Center to ensure other patients receive the precious gift of life through blood and blood product donations.

Rob’s professional work has garnered numerous industry awards, including Silver Six Awards of Excellence from the International Association of Business Communicators, a Citation of Excellence from the American Advertising Federation, and Joey awards from the San Jose Film and Video Commission.

In addition, he has written a memoir to tell the compelling story of the twenty-year cancer odyssey he and his wife and family endured, and share the many blessings they received even in the darkest of times. “But I Was in Such a Good Mood This Morning!” is now available on Amazon.com and Createspace.com.

To contact Rob about speaking at your upcoming church, school or civic event, email him at rob@post-traumaticpress.com. For more information, visit www.post-traumaticpress.com.

Rob is featured here in a short video, part of our "From the Heart" series:

I’d Rather Be in the Bahamas

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By Michele Hyndman, Public Relations Manager, Stanford Blood Center

As Jennifer Flowers sat in a hospital bed on January 8, 2010, she would have much rather been on a beach on one of the tropical islands she preferred to frequent. Walking through the surf on a sandy beach in Hawaii, the Bahamas, Barbados, Antigua, Bermuda, or Jamaica during one of her vacations was her idea of living. But that day, she was receiving a bone marrow transplant at Stanford Hospital that would keep her alive.

The process started in October 2008 when Jennifer was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells in bone marrow. “I had been experiencing tiredness and pain in my left pelvic area,” she explained. Jennifer had always been active and was one of those rare people who looked forward to going to the gym. “As a young, health-conscious, professional woman, who exercised four times a week, I was stunned by this diagnosis.”

That year, devastating news had already rocked Jennifer’s life. “My family and I endured the following battles: in the first trimester, my mother was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma; in the second trimester, my father was diagnosed with metastatic colon cancer; in the third trimester, I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma,” she said.

“With the help of God and my family, I summoned all of my strength to fight," said Jennifer. She underwent chemotherapy causing her blood counts to drop. “They explained to me the importance of receiving a blood transfusion. That’s when I truly understood the meaning and purpose behind being a blood donor and how special it was to me that someone took the time to donate blood to save someone else’s life,” she said.

An autologous bone marrow transplant where her own stem cells were harvested resulted in an extended stay in the hospital and radiation treatments. Eighteen days after her release, while she was recuperating at her parents’ home, Jennifer’s father died.

Two of Jennifer’s sisters took "Family Leave" in order to nurse her back to health; her brother and other sister relieved them on the weekends. The prayers of friends, perseverance, time and determination aided in her yearlong recovery, she says. Now, "I'm living my life like it's golden."

Jennifer is now supporting the Light the Night Walk to raise funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society to bring help and hope to people battling blood cancers. “I have a newfound appreciation for life and the example I set for others,” she said.

Jennifer hopes to plan a trip to Dominican Republic next year.


Jennifer is featured here in a short video, part of our "From the Heart" series:


Life, Interrupted


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By Brooke Wilson, Communications Manager, Stanford Blood Center

Mike Wu was diagnosed with Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML) in January, 2003, after complaining to his doctor about persistent abdominal pain. It was one week before his wedding. He began taking a laundry list of prescribed medications that compromised his immune system; he lost about 30 pounds. He and his fiance, Jennifer, postponed the wedding so Mike could get better.

After being ultimately disappointed with the results of drug therapy which did not help to control his CML, Mike was relieved to hear that a suitable marrow donor had been found in China through the National Marrow Donor Program Registry. He underwent a bone marrow transplant in July, 2004, and several transfusions of platelets and red blood cells in the following weeks of recovery.

Having leukemia has changed Mike’s focus in life. “I decided not to go back to my previous job after my treatment. Being so close to death made me realize how important time is, so now I spend it doing things I enjoy and doing things that matter.” Mike and Jennifer were married on May 14, 2003.

They are both actively involved with Team-in-Training, The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and the Asian American Donor Program to support other people who are battling cancer.

Mike shares his firsthand experiences in this micro-documentary:


   

Magnificent Maddie


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By Julie Ruel, Social Media Manager, Stanford Blood Center

Pulmonary hypertension, overriding aorta, and pulmonary atresia are a few of the health obstacles in little Maddie’s life. She has undergone 11 procedures, including three open-heart surgeries, to correct her cardiovascular defects and has received the lifesaving gift of blood with each of her surgeries.

A few years ago, Maddie’s parents were told that she would be on oxygen for the rest of her life due to her heart defect. Feeling hopeless, they brought her to Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital to see a pioneering pediatric cardiologist. She underwent additional procedures, including a third open-heart surgery, and has lived without her oxygen tank ever since!

As a thank-you to the anonymous blood donors that helped forever change her life, the talented young Maddie designed greeting cards for a holiday give-away in 2009. If you donated blood with us around that time, you may recognize her artwork:

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After a successful year in kindergarten, Maddie enjoyed spending time this summer with family and some Nickelodeon friends.

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From her mom, Wanda: Maddie made tremendous progress this past year! She is going on to first grade and is so excited. We started the summer with a bang by staying the weekend at the Nickelodeon Hotel in Florida. She was beside herself wanting to cram everything in one day! By the end of the night poor thing was so tired, however would not fall asleep thinking she was going to "miss something”. That's my girl.


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Here is a happy email update from Maddie’s mom: Summer 2012

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Miss Madeline has been a very busy little girl this summer with swimming, ballet, and vacationing!

She started swimming lessons but within 2 lessons she developed an ear infection. We rescheduled once she finished her antibiotics and the day after her 3rd lesson another ruptured eardrum. So needless to say, we had to put swimming lessons on hold until we see an ENT in September.

I enrolled her in a few ballet classes this month and she LOVED it!!! Keeps asking me if she is going back to ballet when school starts up.

I took her on a few mini vacations. Clearwater for 2 weeks and Daytona Beach for a few days. This young lady LOVES the beach. Just give her a shovel, a pail, and sand and she is at home!

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Medically she is in the best health. Eating more and more everyday (eggs, pancakes, sausage, soup, salads, blueberries, chicken, raviolis, pasta, mashed potatoes, fish, hotdogs, etc.). She does struggle a little with chewing and tires easily, but for the most part I mash everything up and cut it up into tiny…tiny…tiny pieces and she is able to eat it. She has gotten to the point where she doesn't want her Pediasure and wants food instead!!!

From a cardiac perspective…it has been 3 years since her complete repair and she continues to do well!!!! I know that we will have to go back to California for a heart catheter in the next 2-3 years (for a follow-up), but for now all is good!

In-home nursing will be discontinued next week. Who would have thought that this would have ever been possible/an option. It goes to show how far this once medically fragile little girl has come. She is SO independent and doesn't want help. She will tell you, "Leave me alone....I can do it....I am 8 years old!!!” I Love to hear those words.

Just Another day at the Office


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By Brooke Wilson, Communications Manager, Stanford Blood Center

You’re minding your business, going about your day, even doing something good for your health by popping into the gym for a workout—then suddenly a seizure sets in and you’re on the ground convulsing, foaming at the mouth, and unable to communicate. Not only has your day taken a dramatic turn—but your life may be in jeopardy. What happens next?

If you’re near a Stanford Blood Center blood drive, you’re in luck.

“We heard someone say that a man next door had fainted while working out,” said Robert Manio, R.N. Then, he and Charge Nurse Cat Layson, R.N., decided to investigate. Even though the person wasn’t a blood donor, they hoped they could help; Cat and Robert rushed to the nearby gym to assess the situation.

“The man was having a seizure when we arrived,” remembered Cat. “And we weren’t able to do mouth-to-mouth at that point.” They located the tools they needed (mouthpiece, defibrillator) and asked someone to call 911.

Then, the seizure stopped. But so did everything else—including his breathing and his heart. That’s when Cat and Robert used a defibrillator to deliver a controlled electric shock to the man’s heart. Then, a few seconds of CPR brought back his breathing and pulse.

“I’ve used defibrillators before, when I worked in a nursing home facility,” said Cat. “But that part was very stressful,” she said in reference to the time when the man wasn’t breathing. “I think I stopped breathing too, and once he finally took a breath, I did too.”

Cat and Robert then watched and maintained his vitals until the paramedics arrived with an ambulance to take the still-unconscious patient to a nearby emergency facility. “I was glad she [Cat] was there,” said Robert. “We work well together. But seeing this guy having a cardiac emergency really brought back memories for me; my father had a heart attack at the end of last year, and he passed away on January 1st.”

With humility and nobility, both Cat and Robert consider that day just like any other day of work at Stanford Blood Center. They seem shy about being called a “hero.” “I feel like this is expected of me,” explained Robert. “It’s part of my job.”

Survival Story

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By Michele Hyndman, Public Relations Manager, Stanford Blood Center

I met Karen in the fall of 2006 through a new mom’s group at El Camino Hospital in Mountain View where both of our daughters were born. I was immediately drawn to her sense of humor, honesty and authenticity. We shared the joy, frustration and anxiety of new parenthood as we watched our girls grow from newborns to active toddlers. Then we both discovered that we’d be expecting sons to join our families in 2009. In fact Karen, and her daughter Rebecca, were some of the first people to meet my son, Mason, when they brought us dinner that February. Karen’s belly was big that night and we talked about life with two children and everything she still had left to do to prepare for her second child. She still had two months until she was due.

I will never forget how stunned I was when I got an email from Karen on March 5, 2009 to announce her son‘s arrival. It started “Quinn Frederick Bossow was born on Tuesday morning. Unfortunately, he is in extremely critical condition at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital.” I immediately visited the blog she had created to keep family and friends updated on his condition.

In a routine check up, Karen commented that the baby had not been moving as much as before. An ultrasound showed that he was smaller than he should be at 36 weeks and there was a mass in her uterus. The safest course of action was to induce labor. Quinn was born with a massive cancerous tumor on his leg, which was what they had seen in the ultrasound.

Karen wrote, “A team of neonatologists was waiting for him. He was whisked away to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) where they worked to prevent him from bleeding to death. They told us he would need surgery right away and prepared to transfer him from El Camino Hospital to Stanford. Right now, they have controlled the bleeding in his leg. They can’t remove any of the tissue until he is stronger and there is a good chance they will have to amputate much of the leg because the tissue is so fused with his own that they can’t separate it without him bleeding to death.”

In that first post, she ended “Also, consider donating blood to your nearest blood bank. Our little boy sure is going through a lot of it, so it makes me appreciate the importance of donating blood.”

My heart ached for Karen and her husband, Garth. What they were going through was unimaginable. On March 13, Quinn’s left leg was amputated just above the knee. In addition, Quinn had several abnormal electroencephalograms (EEG), a test that measures and records the electrical activity of your brain. Doctors were uncertain if he had brain trauma.

Quinn’s recovery is nothing short of miraculous. He was tenacious. After the amputation, Quinn grew stronger. He ate and slept well. On March 27, 2009, Karen and Garth were able to bring Quinn home. Since then, he continued to exceed every expectation. Quinn shows no sign of cancer now but doctors continue to monitor him closely. He learned to roll over and crawl on his own quickly. Quinn is now learning to walk with a prosthetic leg using a push toy. Karen says he has no idea he has any limitations. He is an extremely happy, joyful little boy with fiery red hair. He is a force of nature.


A heartfelt microdocumentary about Quinn and his family:


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