Category Archives: Donor Stories

Donate Blood for Little Girls Like Molly

Donating blood is a pretty simple thing to do, right? I mean hey, you answer a couple questions, lay on a table for about 10 minutes to get your blood drawn, then have some juice and snacks afterwards to recover! After this, you go on to live your normal life while your donated blood goes on to save a life.

Have you ever thought about what kind of person receives your blood? Where it goes and why it matters? Let this little, joy-filled girl named Molly give you an inkling as to why donating your blood makes such a positive impact in the lives of others.

Tom Yahner

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Tom Yahner is an associate professor in Penn State’s Department of Landscape Architecture. His life was forever changed when in November of 2006 he was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), a blood and bone marrow cancer that prevents myelogenous blood cells from maturing into normal white cells.  Within the week he began treatment at the Penn State Hershey Medical Center, which involved a treatment of chemotherapy specifically for destroy the leukemia cells in his bone marrow. His treatment included an intensive process designed to kill most of the leukemia cells called “induction” chemotherapy, followed by three to four cycles of “consolidation” chemotherapy to finish off any remaining leukemia cells.

Unfortunately, this process usually also destroys most of the bone marrow’s normal blood cells, which is where Yahner’s blood transfusions came in. “Five times my blood cells were destroyed by the chemotherapy and I was dependent upon donated blood to stay alive.”

After his leukemia returned ten months later, Yahner’s doctors determined that his best chance to survive was a stem cell transplant, which he received from his sister’s donation, and was given a form of chemotherapy strong enough that he likely wouldn’t be able to recover normal blood cell production on his own.

“Again, I was dependent upon donated blood to keep me alive while I waited for my transplanted stem cells to begin making blood,” Yahner said. “In all, donated blood saved my life six times through the course of my treatment.”

So what did blood really mean to Tom in his time of need?

“It meant everything, Yahner said. “Donated blood was an essential component of the treatment.  Donated blood was as important as the chemotherapy drugs I received to destroy the leukemia cells. It was as important as the antibiotics and other drugs needed to prevent and treat infections when my immune system was compromised, and as important as the highly skilled medical personal and high quality facilities at the Penn State Hershey Medical Center.”

Tom would go on to receive many more units of blood during his treatment and felt that he owed his life to every person who gave the gift of blood. Even though a leukemia diagnosis prevents him from donating in the future, after his experience, Yahner sees the simple act of donating blood from a whole new perspective.

“Every time I see a blood drive sign on campus I feel a tremendous sense of gratitude for the generosity of those who give blood,” Yahner said. “I also think of the people with diagnoses like mine who have the chance to survive a life threatening illness because of the generosity and compassion of those who donate blood.”

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Joanne Aller

Joanne Aller is an Administrative Assistant for the Center of Dielectrics and Piezoelectrics at the Millennium Science Complex. She has been donating blood for many years, and it all started with the birth of her third daughter in June of 1978. Already the mother of twins, Aller’s water broke unexpectedly and she was rushed into the hospital. After three painful days of waiting, a sleep-deprived and weak, her labor finally began only to erupt with a string of potentially fatal consequences.

14 hours later, Aller was still in labor and losing blood too fast to replace it. She began hemorrhaging and there was nothing doctors could do. “At this point, I had too little blood left in me to keep my heart pumping for much longer, and they were preparing for it to stop,” Aller said. Finally, with the help of specialized technology that cross-matched her rapidly thinning blood for a transfusion, Aller received the blood that she desperately needed for her and her unborn daughter to survive. Blood donations were a personal miracle for Aller, and are the reason she is now a happy mother and grandmother today. “It is so hard to believe that my life could have gone to such opposite ends of the spectrum within a 24-hour period. I nearly died, but a few hours later I felt great and was walking around the hospital and holding my brand new daughter as long as they would let me,” Aller said. “There is no doubt that all the people who gave the blood that saved me, none of whom I will ever know, made that possible for me.”

What Aller has learned from her life-threatening experience is that this situation can unfortunately happen to anyone. Having had a very smooth process in the past with the birth of twins, the complications with her third child came unexpectedly with almost fatal consequences. Today, she reflects often on how many people’s lives would have been different or non-existent if she didn’t receive blood that day, inclyding her now many grandchildren’s live. Aller has been donating blood ever since, wanting to save the lives of others like her life was saved that day. To date, she has given 11 gallons of blood in donations. “The power to save a life is a huge, awesome thing, and very personal to me because of my own experience on the other side of it, “ Aller said. “That is why I do my part to encourage blood donation every chance I get; you never know who you will save or what they might accomplish because you gave them the chance to live.”

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Tayaunna Jackson

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Tayaunna Jackson is a current senior studying Communication Sciences and Disorders as well as linguistics at Penn State. Her freshman year of college was when she was diagnosed with Von Willebrand disease. This disease is a genetic disorder caused by missing or defective Von Willebrand factor (VWF), which is a clotting protein within the blood.

When a person with this disease cuts themselves, a clot will not form and heal the body as fast as it would happen for a person without the disease. An extreme case would be if a person were to get in a car accident. Their body would struggle to help stop the bleeding which could lead to a loss of too much blood. Once a month, Tayaunna has to get an IV of Humate-P to maintain the disease. Humate-P is a human clotting factor from pooled human plasma. It works by increasing the amount of clotting factor VIII and von Willebrand factor in the blood.

“Most of the factor I receive comes from donated blood,” she said. “This is why I encourage people to donate blood if they can, to not only help me but the thousands upon thousands of people who are in need as well.” Despite her disease, Tayaunna is still able to participate in her favorite activities at Penn State. “This disease does not define me,” she said. ” It will never control my life.”

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Got a story you want to share with us? Contact Kelly Gibson at kgibson42494@gmail.com