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Life Stories

Meet Angel
Meet Angel

Meet Angel

Meet Angel and his beautiful family, wife Samantha and son Zayden.  This happy family wouldn't exist if not for blood donors.  

June 9, 2012 started as a day of celebration for the young couple expecting their first child.  When Angel and Samantha arrived at the baby shower being held in their honor they had no idea that within hours Angel would be fighting for his life.  During the shower Angel collapsed, experiencing extreme respiratory distress.  He was rushed by ambulance to Sarasota Memorial Hospital where his heart stopped and he had to be resuscitated.  Doctors performed emergency open heart and lung surgery to remove a blood clot which was two feet long and started as deep vein thrombosis in his leg.  He was only 19 years old at the time.  

During and after surgery, Angel received 49 units of blood.  While he was recovering in the cardiac step-down unit, Samantha went into labor.  Nurses were able to wheel Angel to her side in time to be present for the birth of their son, Zayden. 

 "People really have no idea when something will happen.  If it wasn't for those 49 people who donated blood, he would not be alive. "

Samantha

Sydney & Tara
Sydney & Tara

Sydney & Tara

"There’s a lot more to me than my illness. I’m a cheerleader and weightlifter. But having Aplastic Anemia has put a stop to sports for now. I have a port in my chest and have received several transfusions. I live in Venice and the community held a blood drive in my honor. It was great to help thank all those people who helped me." Sydney

"I started donating blood while at Sarasota Military High. Today I’m a nursing student and plan to make a career of saving lives." Tara

Nick & Sarah
Nick & Sarah

Nick & Sarah

"Before being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease I was President of the student council, coached volleyball and was real active. After the diagnosis, I was hospitalized and received several transfusions. I have to admit I was really afraid to receive a stranger’s blood. The benefit of the transfusion was immediate. I realized that someone who I would never meet actually saved my life. My fear turned to gratitude. I really admire Nick and everyone else who donates." Sara

"I’ve known Sarah since we were kids. When I heard that she received transfusions, donating blood took on a whole new meaning for me. I’m really proud of what I do." Nick

Dana & Rocky
Dana & Rocky

Dana & Rocky

"When I was four I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. I went through years of chemotherapy and needed a blood transfusion. I’ll be grateful to that donor for the rest of my life. I’m 15 now, cancer-free, and volunteer with the local Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Surviving cancer made me who I am today. We all have the ability to positively impact others." Dana

"My mom directs a transfusion laboratory so I’ve always known how easy and important it is to give. When I think about how many lives she’s saved, I’m proud of her too." Rocky

Meet Abby
Meet Abby

Meet Abby

Three year old Abby Duplissey's eyes sparkle with excitement when she talks about her favorite activities: Abby loves dancing, playing and drinking milk. Her happy demeanor exudes life. One cannot help but to smile while around her, especially her family.

While still in her mother’s womb, doctors diagnosed Abby with a life threatening heart condition. Her mother, Kimberly, was told that Abby probably would not live past her first breath and if she did survive, she would be physically deformed. Abby defied the challenges against her.

At six days old, Abby underwent surgery to close three holes in her heart and widen and untangle the aortic arch from wrapping around her vocal cords. During the procedure, she required a blood transfusion.

“Abby’s open heart surgery wouldn’t have been possible without someone’s blood donation,” Kimberly says. “Blood is the liquid gold. You don’t realize how precious it is until you or someone you know needs it.”

Meet Dana Kulbersh
Meet Dana Kulbersh

Meet Dana Kulbersh

Dana Kulbersh is a happy, intelligent and well-spoken teen who has a heart for helping others, especially cancer patients. She knows all too well what it’s like to be in their shoes. She’s been there, too.

Her story of survival began when she was four years old. The Kulbersh family was enjoying a day at a theme park when the bubbly little girl complained of not feeling well. Her legs hurt and she had a low grade fever. Thinking that Dana had a virus, her family took her to the doctor. Over the course of the next month Dana underwent multiple diagnoses to determine the exact cause of her illness. The diagnosis was something that no parent ever wants to hear – Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Dana went through nearly three years of chemotherapy, frequent stays at All Children’s Hospital, and required a blood transfusion. Luckily for Dana the cancer was caught early and this form is a highly treatable type of leukemia.

“I’ll be grateful to that blood donor for the rest of my life,” says Dana.

Dana, now cancer free, volunteers a majority of her time for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, supporting the cause to fight cancer and encouraging others through their life altering ordeal. “Surviving cancer made me who I am today,” says Dana. “It was a life changing experience for me. We all have the ability to positively impact others – one simple way is to donate blood.”

Meet Sarah Knoll
Meet Sarah Knoll

Meet Sarah Knoll

Sarah's life as a student at Sarasota Lutheran School was very different from what it is today. Before being diagnosed with Crohn's disease she was President of the Student Council, coached volleyball and was a self-declared "over achiever." The diagnosis came at age 15 just as she was beginning her sophomore year at Sarasota Military Academy (SMA). A year that she would complete at home through the Hospital Homebound Program – too ill to leave the house.

Early after the diagnosis Sarah was hospitalized and received three blood transfusions. She is very honest about her initial terror – "oh my god, some strangers blood is going into me." She is equally candid about the next thought that went through her mind."I actually welled up with tears," recalls Sarah. "I realized that someone out there who I would never meet was actually saving my life." The benefit of the transfusion was immediate. “I was so weak that I couldn’t even lift my arms. After the transfusions I couldn’t believe how good I felt," recalls Sarah.

Meet Olivia Woodruff
Meet Olivia Woodruff

Meet Olivia Woodruff

Olivia Woodruff is a young, beautiful and optimistic woman. Looking at her, one would never know the battle she has been fighting for nearly three years. In July 2007, just two months after the birth of her second daughter, Olivia started experiencing double vision, eyelid drooping, difficulty talking and swallowing. She had always been healthy, but when this terrifying ordeal unfolded, she found herself in the intensive care unit of Sarasota Memorial Hospital.

Doctors diagnosed and removed a tumor on her thymus gland. They also diagnosed myasthenia gravis (MG). MG is a neuromuscular disorder characterized by atrophy of the muscles and is caused by an abnormal immune system. There is no known cure for MG, but there are special blood therapies that can help reduce symptoms. Being diagnosed with MG changed Olivia’s life dramatically.

Olivia was given medications and underwent outpatient plasma exchange treatments. During each plasma exchange, Olivia’s plasma was removed and replaced with purified donor plasma. In total, Olivia received 33 plasma exchange treatments and 99 liters of albumin. “I cannot imagine how many blood donors helped save my life. I wish I could tell them how important their donations were. They are my saviors,” remarks Olivia.

“I can’t thank blood donors enough,” says Olivia. “They gave me back a normal life and the ability to care for my two little girls. I know I may go into crisis at some time down the road, and I may need more treatments. It’s comforting to know that Suncoast Communities Blood Bank and the blood donors will be there for me.”

Meet Alisha
Meet Alisha

Meet Alisha

Two years ago, 38 year-old Alisha, normally a healthy, energetic mother and business woman, grew concerned when she noticed a strange rash and bruising on her arms. Hours later she was fighting for her life in the emergency room at Lakewood Ranch Medical Center. What she thought was a rash, was actually blood leaking from the vessels just under her skin.

The diagnosis was TTP, Thrombic Thrombocytopenia Purpura, a rare autoimmune disorder that causes blood clots to form in the small blood vessels, and leads to a low platelet count. Alisha credits blood donors with saving her life. In the last two years, she has received over 700 units of blood products, as well as therapeutic procedures provided by Suncoast. “I wouldn’t be alive today if it weren’t for the 700 plus donors and Suncoast Communities Blood Bank, who gave me back my life,” said Alisha.

Meet Kevin
Meet Kevin

Meet Kevin

At age 13, Kevin's mother died of cancer. He watched his mother go through treatment, which included blood products. At a very early age he understood the importance of blood donation and started donating when he was 19 years-old. He has not stopped since. Kevin comes in faithfully every two weeks to donate platelets, which are vital in the treatment of cancer. Kevin has made 506 donations and he is a 120 gallon donor! Suncoast is grateful to our loyal donors and for the thousands of lives they have saved.

Meet the O'Leary family
Meet the O'Leary family

Meet the O'Leary family

Kathleen, Cassandra and Kathryne. A grandmother, mother and daughter impacted by life changing circumstances.

Grandmother Kathleen was once a blood donor. When her life got busy, like many of ours do, she stopped donating for a while. That is, until her daughter Cassandra experienced a high risk pregnancy. Baby Kathryne was born nearly three months early, weighing only two pounds. Kathryne spent a long time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and during her stay, needed a blood transfusion.

Grandmother Kathleen never realized that her life would be changed because of Kathryne’s need for a transfusion. She now makes donating blood a regular part of her routine.

“I cannot imagine not donating. When Kathryne was a week old it startled me to think that this tiny life needed a blood transfusion,” says Kathleen. “We are very blessed to have people donate. What if no one had given? She’s alive because of transfusions and caring people.”

For proud mom, Cassandra, Kathryne’s birth brought another new direction in her life. She is studying nursing and hopes to someday work in the NICU.

As for baby Kathryne, she is surrounded by loving family and has a great future ahead of her.

Life-long Blood Donors
Life-long Blood Donors

Life-long Blood Donors

Fredd and Shelia Atkins are both well-known in Sarasota, their hometown. The Atkins have devoted their lives to their family and community. Both are involved in dozens of community, cultural, economic development and educational organizations.

They are also life-long blood donors. Fredd is up to 17 gallons and Shelia is at 3 gallons. Together, they encourage others to donate, especially the next generation. “We need to educate our children early about the importance of donating blood,” says Shelia. Both Shelia and Fredd are very busy but donating is something they take time for. “If I can find the time, I know you can,” remarks Fredd.

Brian Kolba
Brian Kolba

Brian Kolba

Brian Kolba, LUTCF, Agency Principal of Kolba Agency, Inc. of Sarasota and Allstate Insurance Company, recently awarded SCBB with a $500 charitable donation. Mr. Kolba nominated SCBB for an Allstate Helping Hands Grant, which allows Allstate employees to give monetary gifts to charitable organizations for which they volunteer their time. Mr. Kolba has been a volunteer with Suncoast Communities since 2005 and has helped with special events and outreach efforts. He also voluntarily gives of his time by donating blood. SunCoast Blood Bank is appreciative of this gift and values Mr. Kolba’s time and talents. He contributes wholeheartedly to making the community a better place by advancing the lifesaving message about the importance of blood donations.
Cindy Malkin
Cindy Malkin

Cindy Malkin

Cindy Malkin, Board Chair and Sarah Pappas, President of the William G. Selby and Marie Selby Foundation visit with blood donor Betty Johnson and phlebotomist Brenda Shumway.

SCBB recently received a $48,000 grant from the William G. Selby and Marie Selby Foundation to purchase state-of-the art blood collection equipment. This equipment maximizes collection efficiency and enhances the quality of healthcare available to the community.

The grant made it possible for us to acquire 40 automated blood mixers which result in the virtual elimination of product loss due to clotting and other preventable conditions. These automated mixers also replace some manual processes and ensures that the blood is collected during a fifteen minute time limit. On August 1st, SCBB officially started using the new blood mixers at all of its donor centers and bloodmobiles. Cindy Malkin and Sarah Pappas with the William G. Selby and Marie Selby Foundation visited the Mound Street donor center to look at the new equipment. SCBB thanks the William G. Selby and Marie Selby Foundation for their support.

From left to right: Cindy Malkin, Sarah Pappas, Betty Johnson and Brenda Shumway

Spreading the Word
Spreading the Word

Spreading the Word

Among the greatest challenges SCBB faces in recruiting and retaining donors is that the public is not aware that the need for blood is constant. Our hospitals cannot save lives without a safe and reliable supply of blood 365 days a year. Getting SCBB’s message out to the general public is now easier due to the generosity of Alice Rau. Understanding the important work we do, Mrs. Rau funded the creation of a powerful video featuring local blood donors, recipients and physicians. We urge you to take 5 minutes to watch this very moving video. Consider sharing the video with your friends, family and neighbors. Spread the word.

Contact Us

Schedule Blood Donation:
1-866-97-BLOOD (972-5663)

Contact Business Office:
941-954-1600

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