When Gage Novasad, 9, was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL), the doctor explained to his parents that he needed immediate and multiple blood and platelet transfusions. His mother Dawn was reluctant. But the doctor made it clear: Gage simply would not survive without these transfusions.
Gage is now in the midst of a three-year treatment plan. So far, it has taken 10 blood donors to save Gage’s life. Dawn now says she is ashamed to admit that she had never been a blood donor before Gage’s illness.
“I realize now that if people didn’t give, my son would not be alive. Saying thank you will never be enough! Please continue the mission and know how appreciated you truly are!” – Dawn Novasad
Melissa Bonniksen Story
Melissa Bonniksen has worked for the Blood Institute for more than 11 years. After a normal day in August 2014, she suddenly experienced liver failure. Melissa spent five days in ICU, receiving blood. A total of 34 people donated blood to save her life. “I never thought it would be me needing a transfusion,” said Melissa. “You have given me LIFE to spend with my family.”
Isabelle Ratcliffe story
In July 2011, Rebekah and Christian Ratcliffe took their 7-year-old daughter Isabelle to the doctor with a fever. What they thought was Strep Throat or Chicken Pox turned out to be cancer. Isabelle was so low on blood that she had to receive two units of red blood cells and a unit of platelets before they could even do the test to see what kind of cancer she had. A day later, the diagnosis was Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia. This is an aggressive type of leukemia and required aggressive, inpatient chemotherapy, which of course kills blood cells, good and bad alike.
By the time her five months of inpatient treatment was finished, she had received 28 different blood products including platelets, hemoglobin, plasma and different blood proteins.
“Everyone knows we need blood to live, but it’s something we tend to take for granted. Our perspective changed in the hospital as we watched the color drain from our baby girl as the chemo killed off the cancerous and healthy blood cells in her tiny body,” said Rebekah. Isabelle would be so pale, so lethargic, but as soon as that life-giving blood entered her frail body, ZAP! she would be bouncing off the walls! She would drag the IV pole with her while she kicked soccer balls around the Stem Cell Unit. Her body was too full of life, too full of energy to rest. Watching this cycle allowed Isabelle’s parents to realize just how important it is that our bodies are continually making healthy blood cells and what it does to us when it can’t. “I started to REALLY understand how important it was throughout the years when I would drag myself to a donation center or blood drive, get poked and give blood. It always seemed tedious, a chore; I did it, but I didn’t have a why, a reason, a purpose,” said Rebekah.
Rebekah and Christian’s eyes have been opened to the fact that someone needs blood every two seconds. Rebekah and Christian never once had to worry if there would be blood when Isabelle needed it. When she needed it, the hospital would make the call and it was there. It was a stress that they didn’t have to have on their plate, and it is because of people who generously donate and go above and beyond to make sure that when there is a need it is filled.
“Thank you for your hard work. Thank you for your time. Thank you for your energy. Thank you for your selflessness. You are so appreciated” – Rebekah Ratcliffe.
Ty Kiser Story
In June of 2011, Ty Kiser was critically injured in a hunting accident. He was taken to a local hospital where he received four units of blood before being transported by helicopters to OU Medical Center. Ty needed surgery to remove his damaged lung and approximately 80 units of blood. He spent 59 days in the OU Trauma ICU and another 22 days in rehab at The Children’s Center in Bethany.
“I am daily reminded how quickly he could have been taken from us,” said Ty’s mother, Sissy. 60 days before Ty was injured, his father died of colon cancer. “There’s not a day that passes that I don’t miss my husband but in the same breath I whisper a little prayer to God thanking Him that Ty is alive,” said Sissy. “Thank you from our family for the work you have done in the past and will do in the future to make sure Oklahoma’s blood banks have adequate supplied when that need arrives.”
Sissy’s prayer is that no one should ever have to receive the kind of news she did, but if that need arises, she is thankful for volunteers and donors who make it possibly to save lives daily.
Tyler Zander story
Tyler Zander was involved in a grain auger incident where he lost a leg along with several other injuries. Tyler was flown to OU Medical Center, where surgeons told his parents he had an uncertain chance of survival. He was in ICU Trauma for three weeks and his entire hospital stay was around three months. During Tyler’s first three weeks, he received 95 units of blood and an additional two units after he left ICU Trauma. Ultimately, blood donors and those who coordinate blood donation gave Tyler the opportunity to survive. Today, Tyler is a junior at Oklahoma State majoring in pre-med entrepreneurships with plans on becoming a cardiothoracic surgeon. In the past three years, Tyler has had many opportunities to speak at OBI events across the state, and in these speeches he usually will include various statistics. “However, the statistic that I tell people I wish I knew was how much life has been lived thanks to blood donations,” said Tyler. Drive coordinators who have the ability to collect hundreds of units of blood play a crucial role in giving patients like Tyler the opportunity to survive.
All In: Donor Gives Blood and Estate
by Gary Lynch, director of Development & Sustainability
“I’m a platelet donor, but I don’t feel at ease without a knife or fork,” quipped James Hellams, OKC. His enthusiasm for our life-saving mission has driven him to give 71 gallons (and counting). That’s about 568 times in a donor chair. That’s plenty of time to become renowned as the ‘class clown’ of the central OKC donor center! Now, James is taking his commitment even further. He has designated Oklahoma Blood Institute as the sole beneficiary of his estate.
James has no immediate family, yet wants to be sure he leaves a legacy with the sizeable estate he has been fortunate enough to accumulate. James’ faith has profoundly influenced his belief in the sanctity of life, and leaving his entire estate to Oklahoma Blood Institute manifests that belief.
Our Legacy Society honors financial contributors who include Oklahoma Blood Institute in their estate plans. James will be listed among these generous contributors. Learn about the various ways you can support our life-saving mission.
New Mother Saved, Thanks to Donors
By Sunshine Wingfield, Community Relations Intern
Bryan and Katy Roybal could not have been more excited as the couple welcomed its first child into the world: a precious baby girl named Jane. But only a short time after delivery, Bryan noticed his wife seemed pale and shaky.
Bryan says it quickly went from being the best day of his life to the worst as he watched Katy fight for her life. Doctors discovered Katy was hemorrhaging, and she was immediately rushed to surgery. The procedure did not effectively stop the bleeding, and Katy hemorrhaged a second time. She then underwent an emergency hysterectomy. In total, she needed 22 units of blood plus platelets.
“I shudder to think about what would have happened if there hadn’t been blood available,” Katy said. “Without those who donated, my daughter would not have her mother, and my husband would be raising Jane alone.”
Having almost lost his wife in 2011, Bryan was inspired to become a blood donor. “I plan on giving regularly now,” he said.
“We are grateful to all the people who gave blood and saved my life,” said Katy. “They have given our family a second chance.”
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Mother’s Milk Bank - Another Way To Do Good
Last year, we welcomed a new neighbor to the third floor of our headquarters building in Oklahoma City. The Oklahoma Mothers’ Milk Bank’s (OMMB) mission is complementary to ours, and its leaders liked our ability to support their laboratory testing and refrigeration needs.
The Oklahoma Mothers’ Milk Bank was founded in 2011, to provide volunteer donor milk to preterm or very ill babies hospitalized in Oklahoma and surrounding states when their own mother’s milk is not available. It is one of only 14 operational nonprofit milk banks with the Human Milk Banking Association of North America.
Oklahoma has one of the highest rates of preterm births in the nation, with one in seven babies born prematurely. Human milk greatly improves the health and growth of these babies.
The Oklahoma Mothers’ Milk Bank gratefully accepts donor human milk from fully screened, healthy breastfeeding mothers.
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Giving is a Privilege
By Gary Lynch, Director of Development and Sustainability
Every year, my wife and I sit down to talk about the charities we want to support financially and how much we want to give. There are two we commit to annually plus our church. Then, we pick another two or three that we feel do good work. We consider, as do many Oklahomans, charitable giving not only an obligation but a privilege. We are proud to be able to help, and we are humbled that the little we give can make such a difference. When we make our decisions, we weigh a lot of factors, but ultimately, we give to organizations we feel have the greatest impact on society. After all, charities are created to help communities.
Oklahoma Blood Institute was created with that exact intent. Helping society is in our mission statement; it inspires every one of our 700-plus employees daily, and it has allowed us to expand into portions of Texas and Arkansas; it’s what we do. Our state and communities are better places because of Oklahoma Blood Institute, and its impact on the families is immeasurable. I hope you will keep this in mind, and consider giving financially to Oklahoma Blood Institute when deciding which charities you want to support. Every dollar we receive in charitable donations goes toward making a life-saving impact on our society and is tax deductible as an added bonus.
If you would like to make a financial contribution to Oklahoma Blood Institute, contact Gary Lynch at 405-297-5545.
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