Zoe Bonnier has been a medical mystery since the day she and her
twin brother were born. Joy and excitement turned to anxiety when
Zoe required a blood transfusion and several platelet transfusions
immediately after birth.
For the next eight years Zoe’s platelet levels remained low, but
stable until the spring of 2012 when all of her blood levels
Though doctors diagnosed Zoe with bone marrow failure they don’t
know exactly what’s wrong or how to treat it. Right now Zoe’s
relying on blood and platelets from donors to keep her going until
a treatment plan can be determined.
Her mother Kristi Keoughan is grateful to the blood donors who
are literally giving Zoe the gift of life. She says, “I know it’s
not fun to get poked and I know it’s not easy to make time in your
day, but it’s keeping Zoe alive and I thank you for that.”
When Derek Cross attended a church service with his girlfriend
four years ago he never imagined it may change the life of someone
he’s never met. Derek had several friends and relatives pass away
from cancer, so when he saw the church was holding a bone marrow
drive he didn’t hesitate to join the registry. All it took was a
simple swab of the cheek to join and four years later he received a
phone call saying he was a match for a 50-year-old patient
suffering from leukemia.
Derek spent five days receiving injections that would bring his
bone marrow stem cells to the surface and two days undergoing the
collection process, which is similar to a blood donation. Derek
says he hasn’t given blood in the past because he doesn’t like
needles, but he may donate in the future.
A year after the surgery the bone marrow donor and recipient are
permitted to communicate with one another and Derek says he hopes
to meet the patient in the future.
Learn more about donating bone marrow
Losing your job may impact your health and your wallet. A new
study out of Duke University found being unemployed, experiencing
multiple job loss or going for periods of time without a job is
tied to a greater risk of heart attack than no job loss. In fact,
researchers say losing your job can have as much impact on your
risk of heart attack as smoking, type-two diabetes and high blood
pressure. Job loss creates a major strain on a growing number of
adults and researchers say future studies should identify new tools
that can help the most vulnerable individuals.
If you don’t feel ready to take on the world without your
morning cup of coffee, it may be because your morning cup of Joe
helps you see things in a positive light. Researchers from
Germany’s Ruhr University found that caffeine helps the brain
process positive words faster because it boosts dopamine
transmission, which assists in rewards-based learning. Researchers
believe caffeine impacts the part of the brain that helps us
process positive words and make decisions.
If you think having a little brother is a pain in the neck you
may be on to something. A new study in the journal Economics and
Human Biology finds a link between having a younger brother and
having high blood pressure. Researchers found adults with younger
brothers had blood pressure readings that were up to six percent
higher than those without younger brothers. They believe the older
sibling sees the younger one as competition and it will stress them
out. Younger sisters were also a problem and caused a 3.8% spike in
blood pressure. Adult who have younger siblings also have higher
Surrounded by wires, pumps and machines, newborn Hudson Turner
struggles to survive inside the neonatal intensive care unit.
Doctors diagnosed Hudson with hypoplastic left heart syndrome three
weeks before he was born and his parents were devastated. They knew
he’d have a tough road ahead of him and when doctors said he’d need
a heart transplant it was another blow to their hearts.
Hudson spent five months waiting on a heart and underwent two
open heart surgeries in the meantime. He needed multiple units of
blood in the process, but when he finally did get his heart
transplant he was too sick to pull through.
I met the Turner family at Gatorland theme park in Kissimmee
several years after Hudson’s passing. They told me even though
Hudson ended up passing away, they are grateful to blood donors
because they gave Hudson five months of life.
His mother Brooke said, “It meant the world. That 5 ½ months is
all we had…we never took him home. He stayed in the hospital.
Without it I never would have known my son so it means a lot that
he was able to live at least 5 ½ months.”
Hudson’s father, Luke, had been a blood donor for years, but his
situation inspired Brooke to also roll up her sleeve and give the
gift of life to other children who may be in the hospital right
She says, “I hope that people will understand that it doesn’t
hurt to give blood. It doesn’t take that much time and that you’re
saving a life and giving someone that short amount of time that
they have with their child.”
Now the Turner’s are giving back in Hudson’s honor by hosting
memorial blood drives at Gatorland.
As they maneuver through the wildlife at Gatorland, the Turners
know a member of their family is missing, but they keep his spirit
alive by giving life to others in his honor.
Harry Rides Again
For the third year in a row I donned my cowboy boots and headed
down to the Okeechobee Blood Round Up over the weekend. Hosted by
Florida’s Blood Centers Ambassador Raye Deusinger, the Okeechobee
Blood Round Up attracts hundreds of donors from all over the
Hemoglobin Harry is probably the county’s smallest cowboy. He’s
a blood drop that comes complete with boots, a cowboy hat and a
lasso. His familiar face gives character to this unique blood drive
that attracts approximately 10% of the city’s population.
Deusinger says the Okeechobee community knits together to
support their own and the blood drive is almost like a party.
There’s music, raffle prizes and even Deusinger’s signature
hemoglobin Harry earrings for sale.
Deusinger says, every community can host their own blood round
up and save local lives. She says it doesn’t matter where you
donate blood as long as you give the gift of life.
Together Florida’s Blood Centers and Hemoglobin Harry helped
save more than 1,000 lives at the 7th annual Okeechobee
Blood Round Up.
a Hero Day 2012
For the fourth year in a row 18 Big Red Buses lined the
perimeter of Big Apple Pizza in Fort Pierce to help save lives in
The annual Be a Hero Day blood drive has become an iconic
representation of the giving hearts that call Saint Lucie County
Scott Van Duzer and the Van Duzer Foundation came up with the Be
a Hero concept back in 2009 after meeting a young boy named Gibbs
who was suffering from brain cancer and needed multiple blood
Since it’s inception, the Be a Hero movement has caught on like
wildfire and has helped save nearly 20,000 lives. It’s gone from a
single-day blood drive to a grassroots movement that not only
encourages blood donation, but educates the public about the need
Van Duzer’s efforts aren’t going unnoticed. The Port Saint Lucie
City Council made him the third person in history to receive a key
to their city for all the work he has done in the community.
Van Duzer says, “Obviously the need is there, but we’re really
trying to educate people. That’s what’s so exciting to me. Last
year we had 30% of our donors were first time donors and so that’s
the whole purpose of why Be a Hero was started-obviously the
awareness, but to educate the public as well.”
By the time the fifth annual Be a Hero Day blood drive rolls
around those new donors will be veterans and hopefully Be a Hero
ambassadors spreading the message of the mission to save lives
through blood donation.
Save Lives in Paradise
Key West is known for its breathtaking
views, dazzling sunsets and unique culture. This salty piece of
land called the Conch Republic is a haven for tourists and a mecca
for Jimmy Buffet devotees known as Parrotheads.
I quickly learned that being a
Parrotheads doesn’t mean wasting away in Margaritaville. Like their
official slogan states, these Parrotheads party with a purpose and
their purpose during the 2012 Parrothead Meeting of the Minds, that
purpose was to save lives.
For three days, Parrotheads rolled up
their sleeves to give the gift of life. In fact, the Parrotheads
produce more pints during this blood drive than any other blood
drive in the Keys. They’ve helped save more than 3,000 lives over
the past 14 years and they even helped save the life of one of
Cathy Edwards needed emergency surgery
while attending the Meeting of the Minds five years ago. While
preparing for the operation, doctors discovered she had bleeding
ulcers and needed a transfusion. The blood she received was donated
by one of her fellow Parrotheads.
That’s why Cathy makes sure she rolls
up her sleeve each year. She says it’s her way of giving back to a
community she cares about and that helped her in a time of
Inspired by the giving nature of Jimmy
Buffet, the Parrotheads saved hundreds of lives during the 2012
Meeting of the Minds, giving patients in our local hospitals
another trip around the sun.
Bleed Orange & Green
As University of Miami alum, I’ve always felt that is it great
to be a Miami Hurricane. Whether you feel the same way or not,
you’ve got to hand it to the Hurricanes for saving lives through
blood donation for the past 30 years.
This week I got to visit my alma mater during homecoming week to
see first-hand how students are carrying on the life-saving
tradition of blood donation.
One of the first students I spoke to said he decided to roll up
his sleeve because giving back to the community shows the spirit of
UM. Plus, his brother suffers from sickle cell disease and receives
blood transfusions every time he suffers a sickle cell crisis.
The spirit of the school could be felt as I walked into the
blood drive and noticed the sign on the wall proudly displaying the
14 organizations that were competing to see which group could
collect the most units of blood during homecoming week.
Also on display, a “Fill the Bucket” trophy that UM won by
collecting more units of blood than FSU during this annual blood
After giving platelets or whole blood, students also had the
opportunity to join the National Bone Marrow Registry simply by
swabbing their cheek.
Students, faculty and staff usually give about 2300 units of
blood each year, which means the Hurricanes have helped 207,000
patients in our local hospitals over the past three decades.
Though a lot has changed on campus since the 1980’s; one thing
remains the same- Miami Hurricanes really do bleed orange and
Marrow Recipient Meets Donor
Jeff Wagner had butterflies in his stomach
as he entered Idlewild Baptist Church in Tampa earlier this week.
He’s been to services at that location a hundreds times before, but
on this night he was meeting the man who saved his life.
In 2003, Jeff began getting winded
easily. When walking up a flight of stairs became difficult for
this marathon runner, Jeff decided to seek medical attention.
Several weeks later, Jeff was diagnosed with leukemia. He couldn’t
believe it. He thought doctors must have read the test results
wrong because he had never been in the hospital a day in his
In a matter of days Jeff went from an
accomplished athlete to a cancer patient. He spent the next few
months in and out of the hospital, receiving chemotherapy as well
as blood and platelet transfusions from donors before entering
Jeff spent the next four years trying to
adjust to a new normal when cancer struck again. This time a
spaghetti-like tumor had wrapped itself around Jeff’s spine. He
also developed a more aggressive form of leukemia known as AML.
Chemotherapy, radiation and transfusions would not be enough to
sustain life. Jeff needed a bone marrow transplant and he turned to
the National Bone Marrow Registry to find a matching donor.
After several months of searching, a
match was found in Germany and Jeff underwent a bone marrow
After a year, Jeff began to communicate
with his German donor via letters, e-mails and phone calls, but he
desperately wanted to meet the man who saved his life in
Five years after receiving a
life-saving bone marrow transplant Jeff met his donor at Idlewild
Baptist church. Singing “Here comes the donor” to the tune of the
classic wedding march, Jeff and Josef “Sepp” Feuerecker embrace for
the first time. Both men wore matching “Finish Strong” and “Be the
Jeff joked about inheriting Sepp’s
sense of humor as well as his love for German food. The two
attended the church service and reception in the hopes of inspiring
others to donate blood and join the National Bone Marrow
Recruiting donors has become Jeff’s
mission in life and he says, “What’s important to me in life is my
family, my friends, my fitness and finishing strong. Those are my
five F’s in life that I will continually strive to until I hear
those words ‘well done good and faithful servant’. Then I know I
truly finished strong.”
As a personal trainer, and owner of Sweat Equity Gym in DeLand,
Diane Shadgett was the epitome of health, or so she thought.
Doctors diagnosed Diane with stage-three breast cancer in 2012
following a routine mammogram. Needless to say, the news shocked
Diane. She ate right, exercised and never thought she’d be a victim
Since she was in such good shape, Diane received a double dose
of chemotherapy for 14 days, but the treatment sent her blood into
a tailspin. Diane ended up requiring several units of blood and
plasma during treatment. Like many cancer patients, Diane never
thought she’s need blood while fighting cancer. In fact, blood
donation never crossed her mind until she ended up as a
Today, Diane is doing well. Her tumors are gone, she’s back in
the gym part time and she’s giving back to the community by hosting
a blood drive at her facility.
She says she wants to give others the same chance at life that
blood donors gave to her.