Lifesaving Donor and Recipient Stories

From all corners: Giving, Working, and Supervising Blood Donations! – Kelly Williams’s Story


Kelly Williams made his first blood donation in Jacksonville at Fletcher High School in 1970 “…to get out of class.”  Little did he know that his self-seeking act would turn him into a selfless lifetime donor 43 years later! 

Williams didn’t become an aggressive donor until his oldest son, at age 13, needed open heart surgery back in 1992.  Williams arranged for a blood drive in his son’s name at his Church, and began his mission to donate whole blood regularly himself.  From a whole blood donor, he then became a platelet donor, bringing him in to The Blood Alliance every two weeks.

Inspired by the people who took meticulous care of him while donating Williams decided to work for The Blood Alliance and trained to become a phlebotomist in 2000 - through the blood bank’s professional training program.  He rose through the ranks steadily and swiftly became a team leader for The Blood Alliance at Southside’s donor center. “I love the people I worked with, and was inspired daily by the positive energy around the workplace,” said Williams. “People come in to donate because they want to, not because they have to. That’s what makes this a special place.” Williams worked for The Blood Alliance for five years before retiring.

When asked how many gallons he has donated, most find it hard to imagine. “They can’t believe how much time I’ve spent in the donor chair to reach 100 gallons!”

 

 

Andrin Espana – Blood Recipient, Donation Ambassador!

 

Andrin Espana was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at the beginning of 2013 at the tender age of 17. After a series of surgeries, her family arranged for a blood drive in her name to raise awareness for the potential need for blood.

On the day of the drive, a slightly embarrassed Andrin reminded her parents that she hadn’t actually used any blood for any of her surgical procedures, and didn’t understand the mission behind their efforts.

She would within the next few hours.

That very same day, Andrin collapsed from internal bleeding that sent her back to hospital, where she ended up using two pints of life- saving blood.

Andrin has since become a passionate ambassador — not only for raising awareness of ovarian cancer, but also for blood donations and the need to have it available for transfusion before an emergency arises.

The Blood Alliance is very proud to know Andrin, and wishes her well with her continued recovery. We thank her for all she is doing to spread the word and convince others to donate blood!

 

Pictured above: Blood recipient Andrin Espana, with Jacksonville Jaguars ROAR Cheerleaders Hillary Tibor and Marissa Danish at the 2013 Jaguars Gift of Life Blood Drive. 

 

 

Courtney Hohmann: "Donating Blood is the Best Way I Know How to Help Out..."

 

By Odette Struys

Courtney Hohmann, 70, started donating blood when he was 20 because of his step-father, Ed Taylor, who brought him up since he was 3. Inspired by his 4-gallons of donated blood, Courtney was easily impressed, and decided to continue a family tradition. If four-gallons was a “wow” during his youth, how does he feel about reaching his 90-gallon mark in February 2015?

“My dad, Ed, would be real proud,” said Courtney, with a quiver of sensitivity as he remembers Ed, who passed away in 2013. He became a regular donor because he is mainly thankful he is able to give blood. “There’s not much any other way to say how thankful I am to be healthy, and to be able to give as often as I do.”

Then, there have been times when he donated specifically for a friend who had leukemia. For three full years, he provided the credit for his regular donations to his friend’s Benefits Recipient Plan account. Being able to directly help a friend out gave him added appreciation for his gift of giving.

“I’m really surprised about the lack of knowledge a lot of people have about giving blood. Most people don’t know or have never heard of an apheresis donor. So, I take the time to explain it. I’m no poet but I do try to spread the good word because its has become really easy to talk about donating blood and how easy it is to give.”

Courtney reflects upon the time when he could give blood using two arms, back in the day when The Blood Alliance was located on 10th Street near UF Shands in downtown Jacksonville. Today, the Trima machine replaces the two-arm apheresis process which simplifies the “art of giving” to give certain blood products like plasma, platelets or red blood cells. Courtney is a regular platelet donor, though with his AB blood type, he is the universal donor for plasma and sometimes asked to give special ECMO donations to help specific infants who need blood.

“I try to schedule my donations around the holidays, because that’s the time folks don’t come in and the blood supply is low. That’s how I try to help out.”

 

 

Fighting for Life Every Three Weeks... Irelynn Rose gets to live, thanks to blood donors who give the gift of life with The Blood Alliance!

By Nick Rose with Odette Struys

“The Gift of Life” are four words which most likely have a different meaning to many. However, to the Rose family it translates to a blood donation that will add three weeks of life to their four-year-old daughter, Irelynn. 

Blood is a precious gift that is indispensable – an immeasurable gift of life, and Irelynn’s parents, Nick and Melissa, know that all too well. Irelynn receives a blood transfusion every three weeks, with an ongoing count of 80 blood transfusions to date.

 

On the surface she is just like any other 4 year old child, with a few exceptions:

    •   Every 20 days Irelynn gets pale, her energy level dwindles, and her appetite lessens. 
    •   Every 20 days she goes to hospital to refresh her life, to become renewed - to be kept alive.
    •   Every 20 days she receives a blood transfusion which provides an amazing transformation, infusing her with the energy and return of appetite! Her lips find their familiar pink color to return her smile.

Irelynn receives her monthly transfusions through a port attached to her rib cage. Given the nickname, “Bumpy,” it serves as a device enabling the ease of a blood transfusion and spares the young girl from constant needle sticks.  With the frequency of transfusions, a natural build-up in iron occurs, which our bodies are unable to remove. An additional process is required to rid excess iron, and Irelynn must drink a prescribed beverage called Exjade, that helps balance her levels.

When Irelynn was six weeks old, she visited a pediatrician because she had been unwell for a couple days and her parents knew something was wrong. Her pediatrician quickly walked her next door to the emergency room. Her hemoglobin level was at a near fatal 2.8 when it should have been above 10. It was there she was administered her first blood transfusion. Shortly thereafter, when she was transported by ambulance to a children’s hospital, her parents learned of her diagnosis: Diamond Blackfan Anemia (DBA). DBA is a rare blood disorder and considered life-threatening because it inhibits the body's ability for bone marrow to produce red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body. There is no known cure, and currently the only treatment is through monthly blood transfusions and corticosteroids. Bone marrow transplantation could be the answer to halting regular transfusions, but current technology requires a perfect match, which isn’t an option for Irelynn. Determined to find a cure, Irelynn's parents, Nick and Melissa have established a local 501(c)3 nonprofit to fund research. Roughly 20% of those afflicted with DBA enter remission, and it is her parents' hope that Irelynn would be fortunate enough to fall under that statistic soon.

“We are thankful for another three weeks to have Irelynn bless our lives. So thankful to The Blood Alliance for being a blood collection bank and provider. Thankful to our employers for providing insurance to help with all our medical bills,” said Nick. “Our biggest gratitude goes out to every blood donor for selflessly giving life to strangers like our daughter, who is now alive because of their precious gift of life,” added Melissa.

To donate blood, please visit: www.igiveblood.com or call: (888)TBA-HERO. The Blood Alliance is your region’s only community blood bank and has been enriching lives since 1942.  For more information about Irelynn and her condition, visit: www.teamIrelynn.org

Pictured with Irelynn is Nick, Melissa, and Sweeden Rose.

 

Patrick Davies: 1st Anniversary, 1st Birthday, 2nd Chance at Life.

 

“42 people donated blood to save my life,” said Patrick Davies, 47, liver transplant recipient. One year ago on September 10 through 17, 2014 he underwent his lifesaving transplant surgery, “I thank God, my friends, my family, and the faceless blood donors, doctors, nurses and the family that lost his or her loved family member who generously gave me another life.”

Until it personally affects you or someone in your family, Patrick will tell you that the knowledge about blood donation doesn’t run deep at less than 10 percent from the pool of roughly 40% of healthy  Americans who can give blood. The same can be said for organ donations.  “You can do the ice bucket challenge or donate money - all for a good cause - but organ and blood donation cannot be manufactured or harvested…it has to come as a gift from human to human.

“I can personally speak about the results of both gifts: blood and an organ. If you can’t give blood sign up to be an organ donor. Look how good you will feel when you know you just saved someone's life with a simple stroke of your pen. l am a living example of such a meaningful gift.  I used 42 units of blood and I will always be thankful to the donors who gave that gift of life to me, many who I will likely never meet.”

Patrick Davies turned 1 all over again on September 10. He is going strong because of donors who are selfless HEROES. So, please share and keep giving!

 

 

Bill Conroy: The Blood Alliance’s first 100-gallon donor:


“I joined the US Army in 1961.  It was around that time, ‘someone’ needed blood, and I was available and able to give. I joined nine of my friends, and they became regular blood donors to help that ‘someone’ named John, who turned out to be a hemophiliac. After donating, we stopped by a deli, bought sandwiches and brought it back to our clubhouse where we watched a game and were offered free drinks (because the ‘someone’ we donated for was a fellow club member).  It was too alluring!

I moved to Jacksonville in 1988 and most of my prior donations transferred into my new account with The Blood Alliance.

When someone asks me why I give blood, I tell the story of how ‘greed’ keeps me coming back. My 5-year-old grandson at that time asked me why I put money in a Salvation Army kettle. My response was that according to this book I read (the Bible), if you give to charity, you will receive 10-fold returns. So ‘greed’ is good, and I believe I’ve been given 10-fold returns – my wonderful family, life and friends!”

 

A Poem By Maren Cesarini:

Elixir my crimson gift, rich blood, through my veins, once flowing, is now beating, through the chambers, of a stranger's heart, gleaming, elixir of life, strengthen my new relation, restore vitality to thee, perfect stranger.

 However you choose to submit this valuable information, please realize that you are helping to convince others to donate and save lives in our community.

Please note that by submitting your story, you are granting permission for your story to be used in any written publication materials or for media use. You are also granting permission for your name and photograph to be used in association with your story, and for any photographs to remain the property of The Blood Alliance and/or the media. Thank you for sharing your story!



Donor Recipient Video - Patrick Davies

Donor Recipient Video - Andrin Espana

Donor Reaches 100 Gallon Level of Donation - Dean Willis

I started donating just like most other folks - a family member needed blood.  My wife's dad was having heart by-pass surgery back in 1975.  His surgery went well and I went on about life without giving another thought to donating blood for a few years.  I really don't remember why I did return to donate the second time, but I became a regular whole blood donor. A few years later I started giving platelets and stayed on a regular schedule. Just when I was about to quit again, I got a call asking if I would come in to donate early specifically for a child locally that was receiving produces on a frequent basis and had started rejecting the transfused platelets. 

My particular HLA and MHC was the closest match available in our region and that they needed me to donate before my next appointment to help this child.  I donated for that child two or three more times in a fairly short period of time and each time someone from the hospital was waiting to take the product directly to the hospital for immediate transfusion.

As I reflected on the turn of events, I determined that a power greater than I was trying to tell me that what I was doing was bigger than my personal interests and "comfort."  It was then that I decided to continue donating on a regular basis as long as my health and other determining factors made it possible.  So, here I am 100 gallons later. 



Marianne Limkeman
Highest female donor in Northeast Florida


I moved to Jacksonville in 1965 and was already a blood donor from Tallahassee.  I continued to give blood with the, then, Jacksonville Blood Bank, and began donating platelets using the outdated two-arm collection method. It was really hard to scratch my nose since both arms were being used to donate blood simultaneously!

I learned that my blood was being used by a specific patient who needed platelets. It was kind of neat, because I knew where my platelets were going. Just the idea of doing something for someone who really needed my help was why I first started donating. It’s a life saving gift, and that’s the reason why I continued donating. I plan on being an 80 gallon donor by the end of the year (2012).

I’ve always volunteered for different things, and this is one way of giving back to my community that a lot of people can’t do for one reason or another, either because they’re not healthy or simply not willing to do it.

Giving isn’t as painful as you think it’s going to be. You need to at least try it once!