Blood donations can help patients with sickle cell disease

September 20th, 2014

Sickle cell disease is a blood disorder that affects red cells. September is Sickle Cell Awareness Month and a good time to note the ways in which blood donation can help patients.

Figure A shows normal red blood cells flowing freely in a blood vessel. The inset image shows a cross-section of a normal red blood cell with normal hemoglobin. Figure B shows abnormal, sickled red blood cells blocking blood flow in a blood vessel. The inset image shows a cross-section of a sickle cell with abnormal (sickle) hemoglobin forming abnormal strands. – Image from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Image from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

“Healthy red blood cells are round, and they move through small blood vessels to carry oxygen to all parts of the body. In someone who has [sickle cell disease], the red blood cells become hard and sticky and look like a C-shaped farm tool called a ‘sickle,’ ” explains the CDC. Those sickle cells don’t last as long as regular cells, causing a shortage of red blood cells. The sickle cells can also get stuck in small blood vessels, clogging blood flow. “This can cause pain and other serious problems such as infection, acute chest syndrome and stroke.”

Sickle cell anemia is the most common form of sickle cell disease, which is an inherited disorder. Sickle cell anemia affects 70,000–100,000 people in the United States, mainly African Americans. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the disease occurs in about 1 out of every 500 African American births and 1 out of every 36,000 Hispanic American births.

The transfusion of donated blood is among the treatments for people with sickle cell disease. “Blood transfusions help benefit sickle cell disease patients by reducing recurrent pain crises, risk of stroke and other complications,” states the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America. Patients who receive repeated transfusions can accumulate iron in the body, and may need treatment to avoid iron overload.

A recent study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that regular blood transfusions reduced the risk of silent stokes and other strokes in children with sickle cell anemia. Silent strokes do not show immediate symptoms but can still cause damage to the brain. Silent strokes are believed to affect one in three children with sickle cell anemia.

Read about Naliah, a 7-year-old who receives regular blood transfusions at Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo to treat sickle cell disease.

 

September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

September 13th, 2014
Image from www.kaleidahealth.org

Click the photo to read about Kallie Swan, a 2 1/2 year-old in remission from Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). Kallie is treated at Women & Children’s Hospital and has been helped by blood donated through Unyts.

September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and people and organizations in Western New York and across the country are working to share information and provide support in the fight against childhood cancer. An estimated 15,780 children and adolescents under the age of 20 will be diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. in 2014, and 1,960 will die of the disease, according to a report by the American Cancer Society.

Though childhood cancer is the leading cause of disease-related death among children and adolescents, the National Cancer Institute says that the overall outlook for children with cancer has greatly improved over the past 50 years.

“In 1975, just over 50 percent of children diagnosed with cancer before age 20 years survived at least 5 years. In 2004-2010, more than 80 percent of children diagnosed with cancer before age 20 years survived at least 5 years,” notes a fact sheet on cancer.gov.

The fact sheet also adds, “Although survival rates for most childhood cancers have improved in recent decades, the improvement has been especially dramatic for a few cancers, particularly acute lymphoblastic leukemia, which is the most common childhood cancer. Improved treatments introduced beginning in the 1970s raised the 5-year survival rate for childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia from less than 10 percent in the 1960s to about 90 percent in 2003-2009. Survival rates for childhood non-Hodgkin lymphoma have also increased dramatically, from less than 50 percent in the late 1970s to 85 percent in 2003-2009.”

Donated blood can help cancer patients in a variety of ways. Platelets are needed by leukemia and cancer patients. Red blood cells are needed for patients with anemia, which can result from internal bleeding caused by some types of cancer. The American Cancer Society states, “Cancer can also lower blood counts by affecting organs such as the kidneys and spleen, which help keep enough cells in the blood.” Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation can also affect blood counts, while surgery can require patients to receive transfusions for blood loss.

To schedule a donation of whole blood, double red cells or platelets, visit www.unytsblooddonor.org.

More information about childhood cancer is available from the National Cancer Institute, the American Childhood Cancer Organization and the American Cancer Society.

Donate Life Walk celebrates hope and heroes

September 8th, 2014

Walk14-crowdHundreds of donor family members, transplant recipients, friends, families and Unyts supporters came to Delaware Park on Saturday, Sept. 6 for the fourth annual Donate Life Walk. Despite ominous clouds and a little rain, a crowd estimated at over 700 turned out for the walk and related activities.

An album of photos from the walk is posted on the Unyts Facebook page.


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Participants could honor a person or cause for which they chose to walk by decorating t-shirts with a team name or individual message. Many created cards noting “The Reason I Walk” sharing messages, pictures and memories.

Walk14-pattersonFollowing the non-competitive walk, donor families planted shrubs and perennials around the Donate Life memorial grove in Delaware Park. The grove is a sanctuary and place of reflection for donor families, donors, recipients and all supporters of the Gift of Life.

Walk14-planting1The day included a picnic lunch, music DJ’d by Troy Buchannan, and a Kid’s Zone with crafts and educational activities for youngsters. Many participants also chose to give blood on the Donate Life Express Bus, which collected 19 units of whole blood and two double red cell donations.

BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York brought the Healthy Zone Cruiser and offered a chance for hula hooping, jump rope and other healthy activities. Tim Hortons was also on hand, providing coffee, hot chocolate and Timbits.

Walk14-kidsAmong the teams registered to walk were: Andrew’s Army, Awesome, Because of Brandon, Blood Red Brothers & Sisters by Donations, Carry On Kyle, Cassie’s Crew, Clifford, Dave Rice, Donating is PHHun, Dondre, ECMC nurses, Friends of Ed Kostek, Future Leaders Investment Club, G.I. Joes, Garrasi Team, Golden Hearts, Grant Marin, Hamilton Pride, Heart & Sole, Hooch, In Memory of Amy, In Memory of Nadine, Jack’s Cats, Jaros, Jozwiak, Just Donate!!!, Kyle’s Krew, Laura and Neva, Lexy, Liver Lovers, LOVEDUB.ORG/Beta Sigma Kappa Inc., NMP Warriors, Phillip, Remembering Maxwell, Ron, Ryan’s Raiders, Shelly’s Angels, Sinchi, Small Steps, Smith, Stoll Family, Team Bates, Team Collin Adam Enzinna, Team Day, Team Eric Fontaine, Team Kathleen, Team Laura and Neva, Team Louis, Team Necie, Team Paulette, Team Synor, Team Tina, Team Tinna, The Peglegs, The Smith Family, The Thorntons, Uncle Dave Mead, Van Every’s, Vickner, and Yoder.

Walk14-tree families

“You never know who you can help”

September 8th, 2014

Whether you once needed someone’s blood or you’re just a giving person, we want our blood donors to know how much they’re appreciated. That’s what “Share Your Story” is all about, and we’re highlighting a different donor, recipient or supporter each month.

Frank Maddock

Frank Maddock donates platelets.

Frank Maddock donates platelets.

Frank Maddock is a person who believes in giving back to the community. In Lancaster, he can be seen volunteering in several capacities, whether it be at the Lancaster Public Library, at the media center in the William Street School, or delivering food with Meals on Wheels. He even helped spearhead a community cleanup effort. His pet peeve is when people are willing to complain but don’t bother to work to solve a problem.

Not only is Frank willing to donate his time, he also donates platelets. For about three years, Frank has made regular trips to the Eastern Hills Mall Blood Donation Center, giving through Unyts’ platelet pheresis program. “I usually have a standing appointment every two weeks,” Frank said.

Giving platelets takes longer than whole blood donation, but Frank doesn’t mind. “I’m up early anyway… a couple hours out of your morning doesn’t really affect anything, but gives you a chance to hopefully help someone down the line.”

Frank was previously a whole blood donor. When a staffer at a blood drive in Lancaster suggested that he donate platelets, he thought he’d give it a try. The positive attitude of the Unyts staff is what kept him coming back. “One of the driving forces is the action and professionalism of the [Unyts] crew, probably everywhere but especially at Eastern Hills,” Frank said. He added that the employees at the donation center are “always on the ball, very accommodating… It makes the process a whole heck of a lot easier.”

Frank also lends a hand at the Unyts facility on Curtwright Drive in Amherst, where he assembles signs promoting the locations of upcoming blood drives.

Frank’s high regard is returned by Unyts staff. “Frank Maddock is an extraordinary man,” said Pheresis Nurse Carol McNamara. “Some people in their golden years may become self-absorbed. Some may despair in their loneliness with loss of family and of their youth. Frank has stepped up to serve his community.”

She added, “I am honored to serve with Frank in our efforts to provide a steady supply of lifesaving blood. Frank is not just a donor, but a friend and role model.”

Frank downplayed his own generosity as a donor, simply saying, “You never know who you can help.”

If you have been touched by the Gift of Life through blood donation, or donate for a reason you feel passionate about, we’d love for you to:

 

September is Blood Cancer Awareness Month

September 4th, 2014

Every three minutes, someone in the United States is diagnosed with a blood cancer, according to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). September is Blood Cancer Awareness Month, and donated blood can be critical in helping patients with blood cancers.

PrintThe LLS notes, “Leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma, myelodysplastic syndromes and myeloproliferative neoplasms are types of cancer that can affect the bone marrow, the blood cells, the lymph nodes and other parts of the lymphatic system… With blood cancers, abnormal cells multiply and survive without the usual controls that are in place for healthy cells. The accumulation of these cells in the marrow, blood or lymphatic tissue interferes with production and functioning of red cells, white cells and platelets. The disease process can lead to severe anemia, bleeding, an impaired ability to fight infection, or death.”

Blood given by healthy donors can help blood cancer patients in several ways:

  • Transfused platelets can help treat or prevent bleeding caused by low platelet counts.
  • Cancer patients may receive red cell transfusions to treat anemia.
  • Granulocytes (white cells) can help patients fight infection.
  • Plasma, the fluid that carries cells, and cryoprecipitate, a portion of the plasma that contains clotting factors, may be transfused to patients whose blood has abnormal levels or low levels of blood-clotting proteins, according to the LLS.

Western New Yorkers can choose to donate whole blood, double red cells, or platelets through Unyts. In the cases of double red cell and platelet donors, blood components are separated during the donation process. When a unity of whole blood is donated, it can be separated into several components: red blood cells, plasma, platelets and cryoprecipitate.

If you’d like to help, make an appointment to donate blood!

Honoring Our Heroes: Jon Patterson

September 1st, 2014

Unyts is paying tribute to our heroes of organ, eye and tissue donation. It seemed fitting to call this endeavor “Honoring our Heroes.” We know that for the families of these donors, they really are heroes, and we certainly feel the same way.
We are truly honored to share these very touching personal stories each month. If you would like to honor a hero, please read below.
For the month of September, we honor…

Jon Patterson

Shared by his mother, Donna

Jon Patterson HeroJon was born in 1985. He was a big baby, 9 lbs. 6 oz. He had beautiful blond hair, blue eyes.

Jon was born with a rare metabolic disorder and his sister Rebecca had died the year prior with the same issues. When I brought Jon home from the hospital, where he lived for three months, I wasn’t sure if I could be the mom that he needed. I wasn’t sure if I could love him, knowing that he would not live to be an adult, but I was wrong.

Jon grew up in a loving home with his dad, me and his sister Kasie. Jon had the greatest smile and could talk with his beautiful blue eyes. Jon did more than he should have, due to his loving family pushing him to do things. I feel that by doing this, Jon lived a longer life than he should have.

He rode on merry-go-rounds, went sleigh riding and took trips. He loved Mandi and Butchie, our two dogs that loved him up.

When we moved back to the Buffalo area, Jon was with more family members, which was good for all. Jon went to Maryvale school, which he so enjoyed.

As Jon grew older, his sister and I decided that he could have even more fun by moving into Heritage Christian Services. This is a wonderful organization where I work as a medical liaison.
Jon lived with five other gentlemen. He had his own room, a built-in swimming pool and staff that loved him dearly.

One morning, I received a call from his home, stating that Jon was not good. He was transported to Children’s Hospital. I knew in my heart that it was Jon’s time.

Many of the staff and some family members were there to be with Jon. Jon passed away peacefully.

I am glad that Jon was able to help people through his donation through Unyts. He now is an angel and I miss him so.

Do you know someone who has been touched by organ, eye or tissue donation? We want to honor them. If you would like to nominate a loved one who gave the gift of life, please click the button below. Unyts will contact you when your loved one is chosen for the Hero of the Month.

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Hundreds give at Buffalo Bills Blood Drive

August 27th, 2014
Bills fans give blood at the drive on Aug. 26 at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Bills fans give blood at the drive on Aug. 26 at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Buffalo Bills fans came out to Ralph Wilson Stadium on Tuesday, Aug. 26 to donate blood with Unyts and enjoy a sneak peek at newly-renovated areas of the stadium. The first 325 people to make an appointment and keep it received an exclusive Bills cap from New Era. Others won Bills tickets, received signed photos, or posed for pictures with a player.

The tour included a visit to the field.

The tour of Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park included a visit to the field.

This is the second year that Unyts and the Bills have teamed up for blood drives, helping to ensure lifesaving blood for local patients in local hospitals. Donors gave 355 units of blood at the stadium and at Unyts’ blood collection centers.

The next drive with the Bills will be Tuesday, Dec. 2 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Click here to make an appointment.

Unyts donors pose for pictures with Aaron Williams.

Unyts donors pose for pictures with Aaron Williams.

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The kids’ center included opportunities for the children of donors to learn about nutrition, health and human organs.

Aaron Williams plays a game of catch with Macy, an organ recipient. Aaron and Macy recorded a message together on the importance of joining the donor registry.

Aaron Williams plays a game of catch with Macy, an organ recipient. Aaron and Macy recorded a message together on the importance of joining the donor registry.

Bills safety Aaron Williams records message for Unyts on the importance of blood donation. The video will be shown at Bills home games.

Bills safety Aaron Williams records message for Unyts on the importance of blood donation. The video will be shown at Bills home games.

 

 

Lockport, Williamsville and East Aurora teams lead Off Field Challenge

August 22nd, 2014
Lockport athletes and students give at the Unyts drive on July 30.

Lockport athletes and students give at the Unyts drive on July 30.

The Lockport High School Lions are the winners of the Off Field Challenge, a campaign by Unyts, the Buffalo Bills and ADPRO Sports to increase blood donations during the summer months, when donations usually lag. High school football teams around the area joined the Off Field Challenge, hosting drives and working to spur as many donations as possible.

Lockport donors gave 52 units of blood. The Williamsville East, South and North teams placed second in the contest, bringing in 41 units. The East Aurora High School Donate Life club placed third, bringing in 39 units.

Lions head coach Greg Bronson and Wendy Lanfear worked to attract blood donors to the Unyts drive at Lockport High School.

Lions head coach Greg Bronson and Wendy Lanfear worked to attract blood donors to the Unyts drive at Lockport High School.

Lockport Head Coach Greg Bronson credited some of the high community involvement to a Lockport family with strong ties to Unyts. Wendy Lanfear is a teacher at Lockport High School. In 2006, she gave consent for her late husband’s organs to be donated. In 2013, her daughter Lea Sobieraski received a life-saving liver transplant. Last fall, her son Charlie Sobieraski started for the Lions.

“Having Lea Sobieraski and her mom Wendy Lanfear in our football family was a tremendous boost to our efforts. Their donor network was strongly represented and our players took the challenge seriously,” said Coach Bronson. ”Thank you [to Unyts] for giving us the opportunity to contribute to our community in such a satisfying fashion.”

In addition to knowing that they helped local patients in local hospitals, the top teams also benefit by receiving prizes, including team practices at the ADPRO Sports Training Center, tickets to the Bills annual Kids Day game in August, and a catered pre/post game team meal. Students also received items from ADPRO Sports and service hours for their participation.

Members of the Lockport Lions football team, which won the Off Field Challenge.

Members of the Lockport Lions football team, which won the Off Field Challenge.

Unyts joins in 22nd annual Day of Caring

August 21st, 2014

Unyts was doubly involved in the 22nd annual United Way Day of Caring on Wednesday, August 20. Unyts employees helped out at Jericho Road Community Health Center, and volunteers from Medaille College helped out at Unyts.

Unyts volunteers lend a hand for the Jericho Road Community Health Center.

Unyts volunteers lend a hand for the Jericho Road Community Health Center.

At Jericho Road Community Health Center, Unyts volunteers worked to prepare rooms and furniture for use by the center. Jericho Road Community Health Center’s mission is to provide a medical home for refugee and low-income community members in Buffalo, facilitating wellness and self-sufficiency by addressing health, education, and economic barriers.

Volunteers from Medaille hold signs promoting the upcoming Buffalo Bills Blood Drive.

Volunteers from Medaille hold signs promoting the upcoming Buffalo Bills Blood Drive.

At the same time, volunteers from Medaille College visited Unyts and assembled signage promoting the upcoming Buffalo Bills Blood Drive. The drive will take place Tuesday, August 26 from 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. at Ralph Wilson Stadium, and signs informing potential donors are now arrayed throughout the area.

Click here to make an appointment at Ralph Wilson Stadium during the Buffalo Bills Blood Drive.

Ty Gabbey Memorial Golf Outing supports Unyts

August 14th, 2014
Unyts Development Manager Amity Mann, Senior Manager of Community Engagement Ryan Daley, Roxanne and Ron Gabbey, and Relationship Development Manager Linda Sollie gather for the check presentation.

Unyts Development Manager Amity Mann, Senior Manager of Community Engagement Ryan Daley, Roxanne and Ron Gabbey, and Relationship Development Manager Linda Sollie gather for the check presentation.

Roxanne and Ron Gabbey visited Unyts on Thursday, Aug. 14 to present a check for $2,000 in honor of their son Tyler Gabbey, who died in 2009 at the age of 18.

The family held the fifth annual Ty Gabbey Memorial Golf Outing on July 18, with proceeds going to the Tyler J. Gabbey Scholarship Fund and to Unyts’ work saving and enhancing lives. The golf outing drew 139 golfers and an additional 82 dinner guests. The day also included a Unyts blood drive.Gabbey bag-web

Tyler loved golf, four-wheeling, and hanging out with friends and family. At Akron High School, Tyler played soccer and baseball. He was attending Niagara County Community College at the time of his passing.

Tyler had spoken of how he wanted to donate his organs if anything were to ever happen to him. When a car accident took his life, the Gabbey family honored his wishes, and Tyler was a cornea and tissue donor.

Since Ty’s death, the Gabbeys have spread the word about the importance of donation, registered new organ and tissue donors, and helped to support Unyts’ work.

The Gabbey family is already making preparations for next year’s golf outing, the sixth annual event, which holds special significance since Tyler’s baseball number was 6.