Center lets donors give from the heart

NNeuroblastoma gripped Tracy Reeber’s year-old child like an evil vise. A lump alerted the mother to what was discovered to be a particularly nasty form of cancer.

Two years later, her son, Daniel, is doing well following a transplant of his own bone marrow. Along the way, Daniel needed two dozen transfusions.

I met his mother last week at the new Puget Sound Blood Center in Lynnwood. She was donating blood. Let’s call it giving back.

Wiping tears on her cheeks, the Mountlake Terrace woman, 40, said she received a phone call about the new center. She arrived the first week to take her place with early donors. Her son was on her mind.

"To think about who gave every platelet or red cell he received," Reeber said. "It makes a huge difference."

That’s the truth. While at the center, located at 19723 Highway 99 in Lynnwood (tucked behind Hollywood Video), I left a bag of platelets myself.

I’ve written about donating at the blood center at 2703 Oakes Ave. in Everett. That has been the only fixed center in the county. The Lynnwood facility is a blessing to those who can’t get to Everett or want to donate on a Sunday. The Lynnwood center is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays; from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays; and from noon to 8 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays.

You can smell fresh paint. Forget flat beds of other centers. Each donor in Lynnwood relaxes in a contoured recliner. The light, airy room buzzes around a center island where supplies are easily accessed.

Lenita First, 61, started volunteering last week in the canteen. It’s important for folks to drink beverages after a donation. Firth helps donors feel welcome.

"I’ve donated a lot of blood over the years," she said. "I really wanted to start volunteering, to do something for someone else."

She was willing to drive to the Bellevue or north Seattle centers from her Mill Creek home, but working in Lynnwood meant she could avoid creeping commutes on I-405 or I-5.

"I don’t have to do that," Firth said. "This is beautiful."

The beauty extends to the friendly staff. Young Kim asked me all the usual health questions before I was attached to an apheresis (ay-fur-ee-sis) machine that gathers platelets.

Nurse Chad Emerson, 38, made the procedure nearly painless. He hovered during the hour and a half donation, asking if I needed a blanket or wanted to watch a video, or explaining how the equipment worked.

There were empty beds. The need for donors is constant. Emerson said he doesn’t mind the drive from his home in North Bend to his Lynnwood job. He likes the pace of working for the blood bank and meeting the public.

The center revolves around the service of volunteers who work in registration, give administrative support and monitor donors. For more information, call Mary Ann Hutchinson at 425-259-6523.

If inspired to action, here are some options. Join the Bone Marrow Donor Program by calling 800-366-2831, ext. 1897. Thousands of patients with leukemia or other potentially fatal diseases need marrow transplants to survive. Many search the national registry for a compatible donor.

Through apheresis, you can give platelets. Your blood is run through a cell separator that collects only the platelets or plasma and returns the red blood cells back into your arm. For more information, call 800-266-4033.

If you are already familiar with donating blood, you may find something new at your next visit. As an option, you may be asked to identify your heritage. Markers called antigens cover the surface of blood cells. Certain antigens common to those of European descent are rarely found on blood cells of folks of other ethnic backgrounds. There is a great need for more ethnically diverse blood donations to help patients with rare blood types.

Keith Warnack, blood center spokesman, said the new Lynnwood location hopes to collect about 7,500 pints of blood per year.

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Remember a thankful mother’s tears.

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