October 22, 2014
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Story of survival highlights need for blood donations
Beacon Photos by John Howell
STORY OF SURVIVAL: During Monday’s launch of the Rhode Island Blood Center and Dunkin Donut’s “Give a Pint, Get a Pound” campaign for National Blood Donor Month, Jennifer Henshall of North Providence shared how blood platelet donors saved both of her daughters. Her oldest daughter was born with a low platelet count due to a genetic condition and required two transfusions; Jennifer herself underwent 33 transfusions while pregnant with her youngest daughter to avoid the same condition.

Yesterday, the Rhode Island Blood Center and Dunkin Donuts kicked off National Blood Donor month and their “Give a Pint, Get A Pound Campaign” with an event at the Dunkin Donuts in Hoxsie, featuring comments from state and local leaders, as well as a special story of survival from North Providence’s Jennifer Henshall.

“My name is Jennifer Henshall and I am the mother of two children saved by blood platelet donors,” said Jennifer during the morning presentation.

She said after having a difficult time getting pregnant and a miscarriage, she finally became pregnant with her daughter Clara. However, when Clara was born in November 2009, she was covered with bruises and her platelet count went as low as 4,000; the normal range is 150,000 to 450,000.

Jennifer said Clara’s condition was caused by neonatal alloimmune thrombocytopenia, or NAIT, a genetic condition that caused Jennifer’s immune system to see her baby’s platelets as a virus. Jennifer’s immune system released antibodies to kill off the foreign platelets. That is why Clara was born with such a low platelet count and was at risk for internal bleeding.

Clara required two platelet transfusions and spent five days in NICU; she has been fine ever since.

Jennifer soon learned that any pregnancy she had would be affected by NAIT, so when she became pregnant with her daughter Elyse, Jennifer received IVIG transfusions to try and combat the condition. Starting at 20 weeks pregnant, Jennifer received two transfusions a week.

IVIG transfusions consist of pooled products extracted from the plasma of over 1,000 donors; Jennifer received a total of 33 IVIG transfusions.

Elyse was born in February 2012 with an acceptable platelet count and only spent 10 days in NICU for a respiratory condition she eventually outgrew. Jennifer now has two beautiful and healthy daughters thanks to blood donors.

“One of the most important things I can teach my daughters is appreciation,” said Jennifer.

Also, while she cannot thank the donors who helped save her daughters, she says regular blood donations and raising awareness is the least she can do.

“Please know your donations make a difference,” said Jennifer.

To have more stories of survival like Jennifer, Elyse and Clara, Rhode Island hospitals and treatment facilities are in need of up to 280 pints every day, and according to Frank Prosnitz, communications manager for the Rhode Island Blood Center, January is “not conducive for people wanting to donate blood.”

Because of that, the Rhode Island Blood Center and Dunkin Donuts have partnered together once again for their “Give a Pint, Get a Pound” campaign in recognition of National Blood Donor Month. For the month of January, Dunkin Donuts offers a coupon for a free pound of coffee to every individual who donates a pint of blood at donor centers or blood drives.

Joe Prazeres, chairman of the advertising committee for the campaign and a franchisee of Dunkin Donuts, said Dunkin Donuts has been supporting the Blood Center for many years with regular blood drives throughout the year, and the “Give a Pint, Get A Pound” campaign is occurring throughout New England and upstate New York, in partnership with local blood collectors.

“Hopefully, this will encourage fellow Rhode Islanders to reach out at a time when it is needed most,” said Prazeres.

According to a press release from the Blood Center, January is typically a difficult time of year for blood donations because of school vacations, holidays, inclement weather and increased cases of illness. As a result, in 1970, January was established at National Blood Donors Month to help maintain an adequate blood supply at this time of year.

Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin, General Treasurer Gina Raimondo and Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian were at Monday’s event to show their support and appreciation for blood donors.

“My office and I deal with victims every day,” said Kilmartin. “We need blood so we don’t have victims.”

Kilmartin’s office hosts mobile blood drives for employees throughout the year, including one scheduled for Jan. 9. He pointed out that while his staff doesn’t need an incentive to roll up their sleeves and donate, he was hopeful the campaign with Dunkin Donuts would encourage more Rhode Islanders to do the same.

“Let’s donate blood!” said Kilmartin.

Raimondo said she understands why January is a difficult one for donations. “Because it’s the most unpredictable month, and I must say, as a mother, it is the most unpredictable month,” said Raimondo.

She added it was blood donors that helped to ensure her father’s open-heart surgery was successful, and she is very thankful.

“It’s a challenge, so it’s important to raise awareness [about blood donation],” said Raimondo.

Avedisian said the City of Warwick hosts numerous blood drives throughout the year, and he urged anyone who can donate to consider doing so.

“It really is everyone,” said Avedisian. “Hopefully, someone will come in here, see the signage and decide to give blood.”

Avedisian also hopes some of the individuals who decide to donate because of the campaign are first-time donors because once someone donates, they are more likely to do so again.

“People come out because they’re helping neighbors and friends; they’re paying it forward,” said Prosnitz.

The closest donor centers for the Blood Center are in Warwick (615 Greenwich Ave.) or Providence (405 Promenade St.). There are also centers in Middletown, Narragansett, Westerly and Woonsocket. To find a blood drive in your community or to make an appointment to donate, call 1-800-283-8385 or log onto edonor on the Blood Center’s website, www.ribc.org.


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