Employee & Community Health

Blood Donation: Giving Shea a healthy future

4/15/2019 by Kimberly Schmidt, Donor Services

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At six months old, Shea Novotny was a happy, healthy baby. So when her mother, Kerry, dropped Shea off at her grandmother's for the weekend, she had no reason to worry. But by Sunday, her grandmother was concerned that Shea had been sleeping a lot and looked a little yellow. So she called Kerry. 

Kerry and her husband, Joe, wasted no time taking Shea to the doctor. Under the light, her skin did look jaundiced. The pediatrician initially thought these signs pointed to leukemia, so Shea was sent to Saint Marys Hospital in Rochester. Later that evening, test results revealed that she had autoimmune hemolytic anemia, a rare disease in which white blood cells attack red blood cells. 

For two months, Shea and her family lived at the hospital. She received a total of 63 blood transfusions, often two or three a day, as well as a few rounds of chemotherapy. When her hemoglobin returned to a regular level, Shea was finally able to go home. 

Now, once every two months she's checked at the hospital, and doctors are hopeful the disease won't return. 

'Shea's Day': a birthday present for others needing blood

After a routine check in October 2018, Kerry was delighted to learn all of Shea's levels were within normal range and had been staying consistent. Kerry recalls thinking, "This is the first time in five years that we don't have a pending appointment at Mayo Clinic!"

She is as curious and lively as ever, thanks to her successful treatment. Like any typical girl her age, she loves unicorns, mermaids, the color pink, Barbies and ballet — and wants to be a ballerina when she grows up. She's working on sight words and reading skills, loves to play outside and is going to try skating lessons. 

"We're beyond thankful for the many things that contributed to Shea's recovery — the Mayo Clinic doctors and residents, nursing staff, people in the lab getting her transfusions ready, and of course, those who took the time to give Shea what she desperately needed — blood donations," says Kerry. 

Shea's family is so grateful for all the blood donors who helped save her life that they've started "Shea's Day", an annual blood donor day on her birthday to encourage as many people as possible to donate blood. They also donate regularly to help others who may need this life-saving gift. 

To read more stories like this, visit the Mayo Clinic Blood Donor Program's Blog Page

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 webpage. Blood donation locations in Rochester are:
    • Hilton Building, First Floor Monday-Friday, 6 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (507) 284-4475
    • Saint Mary's 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?