Stories



Dan Barreiro woke up last October with what he thought was the stomach flu. After battling symptoms for several weeks, Dan went to the emergency room with extreme abdominal pain. It was discovered that Dan was anemic and had a low blood count. He was immediately given blood. After further examinations, doctors also diagnosed him with colon cancer. Dan began chemotherapy treatments and after 6 months, he received good news. He was cancer free. “My surgery would not have been successful without the generosity of blood donors. By becoming a donor myself, I hope I will be able to help someone else as I was helped.”
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
Abigail "Abby" Bartel was diagnosed with a hepatoblastoma at the age of 18 months. Hepatoblastoma is a rare form of liver cancer. Abby had to undergo a total of six rounds of chemotherapy treatments. She had a liver resection surgery where two-thirds of her liver was removed. In November 2003, Abby was declared cancer-free. Unfortunately, 4 months after her liver surgery, a complication from the surgery was found. Abby then needed a bile duct reconstruction surgery and received numerous blood transfusions throughout her chemotherapy and surgeries. Currently, Abby remains in remission. “Our family is very thankful to all the blood donors,” says Cara Bartel, Abby’s mother. “Your precious donation of blood is so very important to the survival of cancer patients of all ages.”
 
At age 10, Yvonne Benson experienced a life-altering event. Her father Stephen, a life-long blood donor, took her to a party given by one of the recipients of his blood. The recipient just wanted to thank the many blood donors who helped him through his health crisis. This event had a profound effect on Yvonne. She committed herself to follow in her father’s footsteps and become a blood donor herself. Although she had to wait until she was 16 and could pass the weight minimum of 110 pounds, from that time forward she has donated blood as often as possible. Yvonne’s father Stephen said, “Both my daughters, Yvonne and Rachel, and my wife love to donate at Heartland Blood Centers because of the people that work there. These workers are really caregivers because they have always been more than just people who draw my blood. It makes all the difference to donate with an organization that cares for its donors, like Heartland.”
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
Zachary Kargol has been a fighter all of his short life. At the age of two, he was diagnosed with Evans Syndrome, a rare autoimmune blood disorder in which his body attacks his own red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. In 2003, Zack began suffering grand mal seizures as a side effect from the combinations of medications. Transfusions of blood products were necessary to help stabilize Zack. Recently Zack was taken off all medications and his condition continues to improve. “It’s a joy to celebrate the simple things that make him and us happy, said Marie, Zack’s Mom. Zack’s parents are planning their next blood drive to include Heartland’s mobilecoach parked at their home so that friends and neighbors can easily “stop-by” and give blood for Zack and others like him.
 
Lanise Kelly is a 35 year old African American woman with Sickle Cell Anemia. Managing her disease, which is characterized by abnormally shaped red cells, has necessitated numerous blood transfusions for her. Over the years, her body has developed its own defense mechanism to the treatments, so the blood she receives must be tested, matched and washed before she can safely receive it. Lanise asks all healthy people to consider giving blood. “Blood donations make such a difference to people like me.”
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
Morgan and Madison Kesteloot were born 15 weeks premature and were very sick. They spent their first four months in the hospital where they received frequent blood transfusions until their tiny bodies could make enough blood cells on their own. Now they are more than a year old, and their mother, Michelle – herself a frequent donor – knows how important blood donation is. “Morgan and Madison are a blessing to us and without all the blood transfusions, I don’t know where they’d be right now.”
 
Elizabeth "Zöe" Koz was born at Edward Hospital & Health Services in Naperville, Illinois, on January 6, 2004 weighing only 305 grams or 10.8 oz. Her birth was truly a miracle as she is the ninth smallest surviving baby in the world. Due to her extremely small size, she needed continuous monitoring and care, including many transfusions. Zöe’s grandmother, Ellen Maniowski, age 52, found that her blood would be compatible with her new grandchild and without hesitation volunteered to donate. Today, Zöe’s doctors say that she has no mental or physical defects and will catch up to her peers in size by the age of two. “Zöe is really a miracle and I am convinced that it was through the blood supplied by Heartland Blood Centers, the excellent care at Edward Hospital and God watching out for us, that she is with us today. Thank you Heartland for helping keep this miracle alive,” said Ellen.
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
Until April 2003 when Jose Ortiz was diagnosed with osteosarcoma he was just a typical teenager enjoying his family and friends. Jose’s doctors advised him to have chemotherapy to shrink the tumor and then surgery to remove it. In May of 2003, Jose started chemotherapy. Unfortunately, the chemotherapy did not shrink the tumor; the tumor was still growing. Jose was left with few choices to preserve his health so on June 18, 2003 he had his left leg amputated. “The chemotherapy caused my blood counts to be so low I required blood transfusions”, said Jose. “I am so grateful to those people who donated blood for me because without it I would not have been able to fight off infection. Quite simply, without their donation, I would not be here today.” Currently a student at Aurora East High School, Jose’s courage has been inspirational to all those he comes in contact with. Heartland Blood Centers works with over 150 high schools every year to sponsor blood drives on behalf of patients in their own communities, like  Jose.
 
Rev. Valtierra calls his good health a blessing, and understands that by donating blood, he is giving a little bit of himself to help ease others’ suffering. As Pastor of Saint Francis Xavier Church, he is acting as a role model for his parishioners, whom he encourages to get involved in donating blood. Father Tony believes that we should reach out and help one another whenever and however we can – including sharing the gift of good health. “Donating blood helps in the most important way -- it saves a life.”
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
On August 9th 1992, Kimberly Walczak was crossing a street in Cleveland Ohio, when a car speeding through a red light hit her. She was thrown 20 feet and suffered extensive external and internal injuries. Having a rare B- blood type (only 2% of the population has B negative blood type), Kimberly was lucky there was enough of her type readily available to treat her at the local hospital. After spending 3 months in the hospital and over a year in rehab, she has made a complete recovery and credits blood donors for saving her life. Little did Kim know that one day she would be working for a blood center. For the past 4 years, Kim has been a Marketing Representative for Heartland Blood Centers responsible for recruiting blood donors in Dupage County. She and her husband Hank are preparing for the birth of their first child. “I always try to educate and inform people on the need for blood donations because you never know when you or a family/friend will need this lifesaving resource,” said Kim. “I’m living proof of that.”
 
For many years Jim Wenberg was an active blood donor helping many patients with his “gift of life”. But on February 12 of 2004, roles were reversed. He vividly remembers awaking that morning gasping for breath and covered with blood. Jim was rushed to Provena Mercy Hospital in Aurora, where it was determined that a duodenal ulcer had perforated through an artery causing him to lose blood rapidly. Thankfully, the expert surgical team at Mercy were able to stop the internal bleeding, but not before Jim was given 10 units of blood and 4 units of plasma. Jim said, “My family is eternally grateful to Heartland Blood Centers and the blood donations that literally brought me back to life.”
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
David Wittrock of Elgin, Illinois, received a much-needed liver transplant on August 11, 2002, after the effects of Hepatitis C ravaged his liver. David was on a transplant list for almost 2 years. The timing of transplantation was crucial, as David had developed liver cancer and was scheduled to start chemotherapy on August 16, which would have removed his eligibility to stay on the waiting list. This was only the first in a series of events that had brought David, age 54, literally back to life. “Every day is a gift and I’m just so grateful to the donors who provided me with the 14 pints of blood I needed during my transplant surgery. My family and friends join me each August for a donor picnic and Heartland blood drive. It is a small yet important way to for me to try to give something back to the many individuals who have helped me to live,” said David.




  Please call the UTMB Blood Center for information and to schedule a blood drive at your school, business, or place of worship.
For more information or to set-up a drive, please call Laurie Hartrick, Donor Recruiter, Blood Collections at 409-772-6551 or llhartri@utmb.edu