The Woodward News

Local News

August 14, 2012

Blood donations are important

Woodward, Okla. — The power of one.  

That was the focus of the Oklahoma Blood Institute (OBI) presentation made during the Woodward Chamber of Commerce monthly luncheon Monday.

Mike Ruby, a 10-year OBI board member, began the presentation by sharing a little bit of OBI history.

"The Oklahoma Blood Institute was started in 1977.  It was started by a group of doctors from the Oklahoma Medical Society who was a need and so established OBI," Ruby said.

Over the past 35-years, he said OBI has "become the 9th largest not-for-profit blood center in the nation."

The OBI's size comes from the fact that the agency "not only supplies the Woodward hospital with 100 percent of its blood needs, but it (OBI) does the same for 130 hospitals and medical centers across the state," Ruby said.

As a dedicated blood donor himself, Ruby said he believes in the OBI's mission to build and maintain a healthy blood supply for the state.

However, he said OBI and other blood collection agencies face many challenges.

"You may be surprised to learn, or you may already know, that only 10 percent of the eligible donor population actually give," Ruby said.

"So if you're not a donor, please become a donor," he said.

But if hearing from a fellow blood donor about why it is important to give blood wasn't enough, Ruby brought back-up.

"I don't think there's anyone better to talk about blood donation than someone who's actually had the need for OBI," he said.

That is when he introduced Patti Waibel, whose 12-month-old grandson Talon, has recently had to depend on blood donations from the OBI as part of medical treatment for a "very rare disease called Hurler's Syndrome."

In explaining the disease and what it does to Talon's young body, Waibel said, "All people have enzymes that break down the things our bodies don't need.  But Talon is missing an enzyme and when it doesn't break down the sugars in his blood, they adhere to his organs."

This can lead to a range of issues including mental retardation, stunted growth and reduced life expectancy, she said.

But while the effects of the disease can be devastating, she said there is some "encouraging" news, because there is treatment for the disease.

Soon after Talon's initial diagnosis in May, Waibel said the infant began enzyme treatment therapy which seeks to replace the missing enzyme in the boy's blood.

But unfortunately "therapy won't prevent the molecules from building up in his brain, so there's still the risk of mental retardation and shortened life span," Waibel said.

"There's only one cure, that's through bone marrow transplant," she said.

Talon was quickly placed on the National Bone Marrow Registry and within a matter of weeks, "they found a 10 out of 10 match, you can't get much better than that," Waibel said.

In fact, she said Talon's mother would have been the one talking to the Chamber members on Monday except since the match had been found, both she and Talon were in Minnesota to be seen from some Hurler's Syndrome specialists at the University of Minneapolis.

The infant is going through another round of testing this week to make sure everything is okay to possibly start the preparation process next week to get his body ready for a marrow transplant.

"He'll have to go through 3 weeks of intensive chemotherapy," she said, noting this will kill all of the bad cells in his body, so they can be replaced by the new marrow.

The "transplant will be done through an IV, but then it will take some time for the new marrow to develop," Waibel said, noting that they are expecting for him to remain in the Minnesota hospital for the next few months at least.

"But we hope that the transplant will take and it will do away with his disease," she said.

And none of it would be possible if it wasn't for one person, the bone marrow donor,  Waibel said.

"This just shows you how important just one person can be," she said.  "And it may be you,  you may be the perfect match for someone else."

When it comes to Talon's medical treatment, she said, "it's not just matching the bone marrow, but also giving blood," because while the marrow transplant will hopefully cure Talon, "throughout this process he may need platelets to keep him strong."

That's why Waibel said she would encourage others to support the OBI by becoming a blood donor and considering registering as a marrow donor.

"So when you hear about a blood drive coming up, think about how you may be that one person who makes the difference in someone else's life," she said.

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