Employee & Community Health

Blood donation: Back in the swim after cancer diagnosis

8/26/2019 by Kimberly Schmidt, Donor Services

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Blessed with a delightful and contagious personality, Lydia Pankratz doesn't seem like someone who has battled a serious disease since age 11. Currently a senior at Century High School in Rochester, Minn. Lydia is enjoying her life in full remission since her acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) diagnosis in September 2012. 

While on a family trip to Sweden, Lydia began to feel extremely exhausted and eventually found she couldn't walk, so her dad carried her. Her parents thought she was suffering from anemia and fed her iron supplements. Once home, her doctor found her hemoglobin was at 4.6 — an extremely low and dangerous level. A bone marrow biopsy revealed cancer cells. She then underwent intense chemotherapy treatments at Mayo Clinic through January 2015. 

"While being treated, I experienced a lot of issues due to the chemotherapy, including steroid-onset diabetes, kidney stones, a suppressed immune system and pancreatitis," says Lydia. "I missed a lot of school and really missed hanging out with my friends."

Detail-oriented, Lydia always wanted to know the "hows" and "whys" of how everything worked. Lydia says she was so impressed that her health care team addressed her in such an adult manner, although she was only 11. 

"They all took their time with me and my parents, answering all of our questions," she says. "They were all so wonderful to me in the hospital for my 12th birthday. The doctors and nurses made it extra special by decorating my room and writing 'Happy Birthday, Lydia' on my windows."

Lydia enjoys swimming and has received wonderful support from her coach; this year, she's captain of her swim team. 

She responded to the chemo treatments very well, and shortly after beginning the treatment regimen, she was found to be in remission. On January 4, 2020, after five years of remission, she'll be completely healed and cancer-free. 

Having received many units of blood product during the course of her treatment, Lydia and her family are extremely grateful for the generosity shown by so many people who donated their blood in order to save Lydia's life. Symptom-free, Lydia currently advocates for our program by encouraging her friends to donate blood whenever Mayo Clinic's blood drive comes to their school. She's a shining example of how blood can work miracles. 

Here are ways you can be involved in blood donation:

  • Donate blood. For more information about donating blood in Rochester, call (507) 284-4475, send an email to donateblood@mayo.edu, or visit Mayo's blood donation web page. Blood donation locations in Rochester are:
    • Hilton Building, first floor, Monday-Friday, 6 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., 507-284-4475
    • Saint Marys Campus - Joseph Building, main floor, Room M-86, Monday-Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. Friday, 6:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., 507-255-4359
  • Host a blood drive. To make it convenient for you to give blood, Mayo Clinic Blood Donor Center offers mobile blood drives at locations around Olmsted County. Consider hosting a blood drive at your business, church or other site. Contact the Blood Donor Center to discuss. 
  • Lead a blood donor challenge. Challenge your family, friends, colleagues or groups in your community to donate blood. These friendly competitions are a fun way to encourage others to donate — and save lives in the process. For the challenge, team members simply check in at one of the donation locations with their team name, which ensures the donation is counted. When the challenge ends, the group with the highest percentage participation wins bragging rights. Are you ready to start a challenge?