Blood donation: Long-time donors inspired by being recipients

1/6/2020

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When she was diagnosed with Still's disease, Marilyn, who had been a faithful blood donor for many years, experienced what it feels like to have a blood transfusion. "I'll always remember feeling better immediately following the transfusion," Marilyn says. Afterward, she wasn't able to donate for quite a while, but that didn't stop this Mayo Clinic employee from finding other ways to help our patients. 

As a Wellness Champion, Marilyn decided to spearhead a blood donor challenge in her department. Blood donor challenges at Mayo Clinic in Rochester typically are friendly competitions between departments to see which team can contribute the most blood for our patients or a single department aiming to reach its team goal. 

Marilyn's team, Lenaye's Lifesavers, successfully achieved its goal. "This is our way of helping our patients. We don't do the surgeries, and we don't have direct contact with them," she says. "It's fun to get new people to donate blood and give back after all that Mayo has given to us."

During last year's competition, the meaning of a blood donation became even more personal for her team. Marilyn's colleague, Sara, needed an emergency C-section during delivery in order to save her baby's life. Where a typical C-section might only take an hour to perform, she was on the table for nearly three. After Gwen was born, she struggled at first, but then stabilized. Sara, however, had extremely low hemoglobin, so was offered a transfusion, which she accepted. 

Also a blood donor prior to giving birth, Sara says, "Never in all my donations, and while participating in this challenge, did I ever think that I'd receive a blood transfusion. It was very emotional. While apprehensive about receiving blood, I was surprisingly very comfortable."

Marilyn adds, "I remember, too, the thoughts I was having while receiving the transfusion. What if it doesn't adhere to me? But I really didn't have a choice. Once I had received it, I felt to much better. 

Having come full circle in the experience of blood donation, Sara and Marilyn continue to use their passion to inspire their staff to participate in the challenges. 

How to donate

For more information about donating blood or how to set up a blood drive in Olmsted County, call 507-284-4475, email donateblood@mayo.edu, or visit the Mayo Clinic Blood Donor Program web page.