The Cast

Just Another day at the Office


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.”

Born To Do This

By Geoff Belanger, Donor Services Document & Project Manager


I’ve worked at the Blood Center for a little over seven years now in a variety of roles, beginning as a phlebotomist. If you’ve donated on a mobile between 2004 and 2008, there is a good chance I drew your blood, some more than a few times.

Every so often we, as employees, are asked why we stay here. For me, the answer is simple. I understand first-hand the importance of the work we do because blood collected at Stanford saved my life. I was born with a congenital blood disorder called Diamond Blackfan syndrome. What that means is my bone marrow would not produce red blood cells. These symptoms manifested immediately after I was born and I had to be transfused at just a few months old. We were living in the Philippines at the time. My family took me back to the U.S. where I was diagnosed at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital by Dr. Bert Glader, who still works there. I was prescribed prednisone, which triggered red blood cell production until I reached puberty. At that point no medication would work and I became transfusion dependent. I was transfused with two units of packed red cells, each month at LPCH for a little under a year. All the blood I received was collected at SBC when we were still located at 800 Welch Road. Before the first transfusion at LPCH my hemoglobin count was 7.0 g/dL. Remember, the minimum to donate blood is 12.5 g/dL. Getting two units with an hgb count of 7.0 makes you feel like a million bucks.

This experience has ignited a deep passion for the work I do here. This passion has allowed me to succeed in all my roles here, working on blood drives, training new nurses and phlebotomists, and now writing standard operating procedures.

I’ve put my whole self into the blood center, but the donors are what made it possible, since they are literally a part of me.

I’m not the only one who feels connected to the Blood Center because of my experience. My mother, Susan, is a charge nurse on the mobile blood drives and she has the same passion I do. If you’ve met her before, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Good news is that I’ve been in remission for over 10 years. No more blood transfusions or medication. My hemoglobin count stays right around 14.0 and if I want it checked I can just go down the hall and have my finger poked.

Our Donors Are in Good Hands

By Erin Crager, Marketing Intern, Stanford Blood Center

When you meet Training Supervisor Mary Hayes, it’s no surprise that Stanford Blood Center (SBC) Collections personnel (nurses and medical assistants) are some of the best trained in the industry. They are consummate professionals. But Mary, a Texas native with exacting standards, still refers affectionately to her charges as “my kids.”

A usual day for Mary begins at 6:00 a.m. She checks phlebotomy and medical history performance statistics from the previous day to ensure that high standards are being met.

With new Registered Nurses and Medical Assistants starting on a monthly basis, a large part of Mary’s time is dedicated to what she calls MBWA, or Management by Walking Around. She is constantly on her feet, supervising by direct observation of the trainees’ work. Even after completing their training, they may be shadowed for several weeks to confirm that work is being conducted according to standard operating procedures.

Mary may also be found speaking at nursing schools about job opportunities in blood banking. Many nursing students are unaware of positions in the blood banking industry, and a career in a field other than critical care can be appealing to some. She recently spoke at the American Health Education program in Dublin, CA where SBC has found many new nurses.

When Mary is not on her feet, she might be grading competency tests for various Blood Center departments, including Collections, Registration, Marketing, and Telerecruitment. Or, she might be training her students for the new computer system soon to be used by donors for completing their medical histories. It’s often a very long day for Mary, but she is committed to making certain that our donors are in good hands.

Lifesaving Research at Stanford Blood Center


By Erin Crager, Marketing Intern, Stanford Blood Center

The collateral damage associated with chemotherapy and radiation treatment may soon be a thing of the past. Medical students have traditionally been taught that the body’s immune system generally doesn’t turn on itself, even in the presence of a tumor. But Ed Engleman, MD and his research team at Stanford Blood Center have developed a method for training the body’s immune system to do just that for prostate cancer. Their research over the past eighteen years has opened new doors for potentially curing other forms of cancer, as well.

At the moment, the process works by removing white blood cells from the body and training them to fight specific cancerous cells that make up the tumor. Engleman compares it to the way a vaccine works. “What we’re trying to do is to use these cells to educate the immune system to fight the cancer and essentially that’s what you do with a preventative vaccine.” The major difference is this “vaccine” is used for advanced prostate cancer. The difficulty with fighting tumors often has to do with the fact that cancerous cells look identical to cells that make up the tissue from which they derived. Without immunotherapy, as the process is called, the immune system cannot distinguish between these two.

Engleman and his team chose to study prostate cancer for many reasons, but a major deciding factor was that the prostate gland is not essential to live. Before clinical trials were under way, a major concern was the potential for collateral damage in the tissue from which the cancer originated. In the case of prostate cancer this wouldn’t prove to be as detrimental as lung or colon cancer, for example.

The process has proved to be quite accurate, which raises the question of whether other forms of cancer can be cured using the same method. There is still one more hurdle for prostate immunotherapy. Cost. Currently the three-day process of removing cells from the body is laborious and thus quite expensive. Engleman believes that some day it will be possible to train the body’s immune system without isolating the white blood cells. For the time being, the process relies on removal.

Engleman suggested the likelihood that immunotherapy will eventually oust chemo and radiation therapy as the dominant forms of cancer treatment, noting that combining all three could be a much more effective way of treating cancer.

He was quick to point out the importance of the source of research material—the blood donors. “This would not have been possible without the Blood Center. We have the buffy coats from the donors, without which we wouldn’t have been able to figure out how to isolate these cells. And without the cooperation of the nursing staff and the research staff, none of this would have been possible.”

Click here to watch Engleman's talk on this subject at a recent Cafe Scientifique event.

Loyal Blood Donor Carries Out Successful Event

By Erin Crager, Marketing Intern, Stanford Blood Center

A plethora of cyclists, bearing no paucity of intent to donate, descended on Stanford Blood Center’s Hillview campus mid-November for the first annual Biker’s out for Blood drive. Over the course of the three hours allotted for the event that Saturday, the gathering of cyclists, many from the Team in Training community, swelled to twice the number of its original 50 RSVP’s.

The hugely successful event was the brainchild of Dawn Chuck, a one time Team in Training member and avid cyclist who has devoted countless hours over the past year and a half to help recruit blood donors.

After learning her body was no longer mobilizing platelets and her subsequent deferral, Dawn opted to donate whole blood as often as she could (every 56 days) and took it upon herself to volunteer at SBC, speaking with platelet donors in situations akin to hers. She also took it upon herself to replace her platelet donations with as many new platelet donors as she could find who qualified for platelets. Her current number of new donors to replace her is around 12.

Her overwhelming success with Bikers out for Blood is just another example of the copious contributions she’s made to the Blood Center. “She contacted all of her friends in her cycling community who then contacted other people so it just sort of snowballed,” says Apheresis Manager JoAnn Wilson, who Dawn has worked closely with ever since she began to volunteer.

It looks as though the event will get the green light for next year, though it will take place later in the winter in an effort to bring in more cyclists who prefer to donate after the season ends. Remember, scheduling a rest day on the day of donation is a great way to save lives during the season without interrupting the recovery process. Dawn once rode 508 miles through the Mojave Desert on a 4 person relay team and still managed to donate every two weeks!

Check out this video featuring three generations of the Chuck family getting involved with SBC!

San Bruno Fire Destroys Home, Not Family


By Erin Crager, Marketing Intern, Stanford Blood Center

Carlene Vasquez, Autologous, Designated & Therapeutic Donations (OADD) Manager knows what it feels like to lose everything. Few people can truthfully say that. On September 9th, the house she and her husband lived in for 32 years was destroyed by the San Bruno fire, after a 30-inch gas pipe exploded into flames just down the street.

Her husband, Arturo, who was in the house at the time, made it out alive and Carlene, who was at her weekly bingo night, was soon whisked off by her daughter who came to break the news. The two were reunited with Arturo at the local strip mall which had been set up as a temporary relief zone.

Carlene spent the night with her immediate family, save one in law and couldn’t have been more comforted. Having all her family together under one roof was all she needed.

As the OADD manager for Stanford Blood Center, Carlene is well aware of how much family matters, especially when one of those family members is seriously ill and in need of blood.

Helping to coordinate blood donation for someone else’s relative gives Carlene the chance to help people come together to support their family members. Not all too dissimilar from how her family and friends came together to support her after the fire. Her story serves as a testament to how families and friends come together when someone is truly in need.

Carlene recently spent Thanksgiving at her sister’s in Auburn with relatives, a long-time family tradition. Christmas has always been held at her house, and though her temporary home in South San Francisco may not have all the subtle details and imperfections she’s come to cherish, she’ll be decking the brightly lit rooms with festive familiarities. And most importantly she’ll have all her family under one roof.

In the picture above, Carlene opens up boxes of jewelry that were dropped off by someone who read her story in the Mercury News. Click here to read the article.

Stanford Intern, Future Notable Alum Begins Junior Year at St. Andrews

By Erin Crager, Marketing Intern, Stanford Blood Center

Spend a few minutes with Amanda Baker, read one of her articles or simply talk to someone she works with and you’ll quickly get a sense of who she is: A modest, eloquent, soft-spoken individual with high aspirations.

By the time this post is published, Amanda will be well into the third week of her junior year at the University of St. Andrew’s, the prestigious and third oldest educational institution in the English speaking world. Since 1413 this establishment has been cranking out notable alumni like Prince William of Wales (known on campus as William Wales).

And who’s to say Amanda won’t be among the notable in the near future? As an international relations major with aspirations to work for a non-governmental organization, she’s quickly opening new doors for herself.

Amanda got her foot in Stanford Blood Center’s door at the age of 17, working for the Key Club at Branham High School in San Jose, facilitating blood drives. She spoke to Account Representative Elisa Manzanares about interning in the PR department and every summer since, she’s done just that.

You may have noticed some of Amanda’s writing contributions in SBC’s various publications. Between contributing to our donor newsletter, LifeLink and our employee newsletter, PulsePoint, she also writes for an array of outside publications including Stanford Cancer Center News and Stanford Campus Residential Leaseholders newsletter among others.

St. Andrews, a small town, rich with history, has a “downtown” consisting of four streets with university buildings dispersed between stores and offices. Without the 7000 students at St. Andrews, the town would only have about 14,000 residents. In describing the atmosphere of the town and the university, Amanda made clear some of the differences between many American universities and St. Andrews.

Here in the states, our college system may feel like a breath of fresh air after the micro management atmosphere we experience in high school. But according to Amanda, at St. Andrews, you’re even more independent. It’s up to you to keep up until the end of each quarter when students are typically given their one and only exam of the class. With the exception of an essay here and there, their entire grade is weighted on this final exam.

Being a student of St. Andrew’s, Amanda is learning from the best and the brightest.
Her dissertation lies on the horizon and though it’s a daunting task, she’s in no way unprepared. The workload at St. Andrews is heavy to say the least. Amanda mentioned in passing that one of her classes had her reading five books before it began this fall and immediately followed with “but our professor is a legend in his field.” Its that kind of appreciation and respect that will surely find Amanda a place among St. Andrew’s notable alumni.

Living Legend Visits SBC


By Erin Crager, Marketing Intern, Stanford Blood Center

Olympic and FC Gold Pride soccer star Nicole Barnhart recently visited SBC, taking time out of her busy schedule as goalie to meet with donors and staff. The Stanford alum seemed to have a knack for keeping her composure, given FC Gold Pride was to compete the following weekend in the WPS Championship against finalist, the Philadelphia Independence. Having grown up in Gilbertsville, a small town in a county tangent to Philly, it would be difficult not to feel conflicted about the impending match. If she did, Barnhart’s confident, yet humble demeanor suggested otherwise as she fielded questions and chatted casually with fans.

Gold Pride’s 2009 season, in which the team finished dead last, was a stark contrast to this year’s dominant run. And their 4-nil shutout against the Independence in the aforementioned WPS championship only mirrored the team’s play all year. Since 2003 Barnhart or “Barnie” as she’s commonly called, has volunteered as an assistant coach to Stanford’s women’s soccer team where she holds the record for most stopped shots on goal. A gold medal winner in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, she is currently training with the US National Team and come October, will fly to Cancun for qualifying rounds to the FIFA World Cup held in Germany next July. SBC appreciates Nicole’s support, which includes both photo ops for donors and blood donations for patients.

Kelly Straight – A Stanford Blood Center Resource Par Excellence

By Erin Crager, Marketing Intern, Stanford Blood Center

I first met Kelly in a work place behavior training class, which was required for all new Stanford Blood Center (SBC) staff. I’ve never been a very social person. I get red in the face easily and I regularly stumble over my words in front of large groups. I’ve taken speech classes in an attempt to overcome my fear but this has only served to point out the severity of the situation to everyone enrolled, much less improve my ability.

The large room for orientation was packed with unfamiliar faces from various departments across Stanford campus, all of whom looked to be superb practitioners of customer service. They all looked like highly respectable individuals and Kelly was no exception. Shortly after sitting in the front row, we were divided into groups of six or seven, Kelly and I being assigned to the same group, to discuss workplace behavior scenarios. When prompted by one of the workshop leaders, Kelly eloquently summarized our conclusions to the leader and then without warning turned to me and quickly asked, “Would you like to take it from here?”

Not particularly, I thought. I was suddenly reminded of all those times in speech class when I was picked to follow the top presenter. Kelly easily could have been up there leading the hour long discussion. It was like she was talking one on one with every person in the room. I looked down at the floor and tried to ignore the sea of eyes beaming through the back of my head. I stuttered, took a deep breath and managed to hammer out the summary of our group’s discussion before my voice completely petered out into some pathetic, quivering squeak rivaled only by mice. Still, after the episode had passed, I remained envious of Kelly’s ability to command a room.

A new addition to SBC’s staff of blood bank nurses, Kelly is a fast talking, enthusiastic individual with unparalleled fervor and a very down to earth personality. After graduating in 2001 with a degree in cultural anthropology, she worked for two not-for-profit organizations as a fundraiser where she routinely communicated with donors and volunteers. A few years later she decided to attend nursing school and shortly after graduating, landed a job at SBC. Kelly still works with donors, although the donations have changed slightly. “We’re still asking people for a resource,” she says, taking a break from her busy schedule. “And just like any other not-for-profit out there, you have to be worthy and deserving of that resource.”

The Cast: Bob Sherman

By Erin Crager, Marketing Intern, Stanford Blood Center

A deafening whistle cuts through the crisp morning air of Stanford Blood Center’s (SBC) parking lot, on par with the ear piercing fire alarm that’s just led to the congregation of the staff. The drill has brought all departments together for an unplanned meeting and the sharp sound quickly quells any conspicuous casual conversations. Just as briefly as Bob Sherman has elected to emit this ephemeral yet effective note for acquiring everyone’s attention, he steps aside, almost as if he were politely holding the door for someone, and gives the floor to Patti of QA, who quickly proceeds to recruit her department for roll call.

Bobs ability to command the attention of large groups in an instant works well for how he spends much of his spare time. When he’s not overseeing operations as SBC’s Finance Manager, Bob’s been sounding a different kind of whistle as a soccer referee trainer. He’s ref’d various youth leagues for 19 years and for the last 12 has been referee liaison to the San Jose Earthquakes, ensuring all referees’ needs are taken care of on game days.

Bob’s also been drawing attention since the age of six when he picked up both guitar and bass guitar. Once a diehard fanatic of The Clash, The Ramones, and Dead Kennedys, his musical tastes have moved from punk in the direction of folk. His current band favors Beatles tunes and is now rehearsing weekly with plans to perform during the holidays.

As Finance Manager at SBC, Bob has played a crucial role in advising upper management, setting up procedures/controls, putting together dashboard reports for each department’s operational and financial stats and, of course, blowing the whistle on any potential overspending.

The Cast: Patti is Oarsome!

By Erin Crager, Marketing Intern, Stanford Blood Center

A six person outrigger canoe glides into the harbor of Bair Island Aquatic Center on the west side of San Francisco Bay. It’s after dark and the crew is recovering from an intense training session. Patti sits up front in the number one seat where, for the last three hours, she’s set the pace of the boat. Rowing in an outrigger canoe requires stamina and good technique to ensure a smooth, effective performance.

Parallels can be drawn between Patti’s role in the number one seat and her role as manager of Stanford Blood Center’s (SBC) Quality Assurance (QA) Department where she sees to it that all operations at SBC feel like smooth sailing. Keeping the blood center in compliance with safety regulations by monitoring blood donation, processing, storage procedures, evaluating the work of staff members and reviewing records are just some of the ways Patti and her colleagues (or her QA crew) help to make sure the SBC boat doesn’t rock.

Patti has competed in Olympic standard races in Sacramento, San Francisco Bay, and in Kona, Hawaii in the Queen Liliuokalani, an 18 mile race around the southern part of the island that attracts world class athletes from all over the world. Her dedication and work ethic in the canoe seems to show just as well, if not better, at the office.

From the Lab to the Lagoon

By Erin Crager, Marketing Intern, Stanford Blood Center

Jan Webster: super supervisor in the lab, avian adventurer in the field

Jan Webster runs the testing on all blood collected in Stanford Blood Center’s (SBC) processing department. This is the place where she and her staff test every unit of blood with state-of-the-art technology and meticulous observational powers. For relaxation, Jan uses a similar set of skills.

Jan first got roped into birding when she agreed to let a group of friends borrow her car. She went along for the ride thinking she’d just read a book or keep them company while they were out. She had no intention of looking for any of the birds they’d come to see but after some convincing agreed to take a gander at four brown smudges her friends had spotted on a distant hill. Those smudges turned out to be bald eagles, and through her friends high powered binoculars she could see every last detail of each bird. She was hooked. Jan started birding with a $39 pair of binoculars from Walmart. Once she realized how serious she was about her new hobby, she purchased a $2000 pair of Leicas known for their high powered lenses. Her motivation to see every detail when birding may have come from her meticulous tendencies in the lab. When Jan first came to SBC she was instrumental in upgrading the testing equipment to improve accuracy and efficiency. Today, the current instruments used, some of which are valued at upwards of half a million dollars, are key in allowing Jan and other lab workers to make the precise observations necessary to ensure the safety and quality of the blood donated.

The Cast: Deborah Gatti

By John Williams, Marketing Manager, Stanford Blood Center

Deborah is Stanford Blood Center’s Human Resources Manager and a 15 year veteran of the HR industry. She practices Krav Maga and Shou Shu, which she feels are good disciplines for staying grounded and clear headed. HR work is demanding and Deborah says of practicing these martial art forms, “It’s a great way to relieve tension.”

Deborah works in HR because of a natural proclivity to help others. She feels that donating blood is another venue for displaying this altruistic tendency. One of Deborah’s favorite quotes is, “Quit looking for excuses not to do something: look for reasons to do something.” Her favorite books are the Harry Potter series. She loves to eat Mexican food, and when it comes to movies, Grease is the word.

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