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WORKING TOGETHER TO SAVE LIVES As the oldest blood bank in the state of Florida, and one of the oldest nonprofit blood centers in the entire country, SunCoast Blood Bank (SCBB) continues to cultivate a close-knit community of givers for those direly in need. Celebrating their 71st Anniversary this month, its tireless mission to collect, test, process, match, store and distribute a reliable supply of blood products, has continually served our community for decades. When O.K. Fike and Dr. Millard White founded what was formerly known as Lower West Coast Blood Bank in February 1949, they planted the seeds of a humanitarian idea that would blossom over the next seven decades. For more than 70 years, tens of thousands of dedicated volunteers have helped provide the critical lifesaving gift of blood to local hospitals and patients. In its inaugural year, the blood bank collected 551 pints of blood, now called “units.” Today, more than 1,000 blood drives are held in the region annually, and more than 40,000 units are collected. But what really sets SCBB apart from other blood banks is its local presence—blood bank board and management live in the communities it serves, and focuses on personalized and sincere interactions with every donor. The backbone of the nonprofit remains its continued support from blood donors, financial donors and volunteers. Its success has, and continues, to rely entirely on the generosity of its loyal and steadfast donors. L I V E

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THE NEXT GENERATION OF DONORS Cultivating a younger and broader generation of active donors. Many don’t understand blood to be a very perishable product with a very short shelf life. Much like food in the refrigerator, it will expire in just 42 days. Platelets are good for a mere five days. “When someone donates, it’s already got a clock ticking,” says SunCoast CEO Scott Bush. “And the demand for blood and platelets is growing tremendously here—there really is an urgent need to increase the number of donors.”

BUSH EXPECTS THE NEED TO GROW even more in the next two years when Sarasota Memorial opens its Cancer Institute, and so SCBB calls upon the community now more than ever to become educated and inspired on what a quick and painless visit can do to positively impact many lives. “With the rate of development in this area, there are more people needing treatment down here, especially in the wintertime,” he says. With seasonality coming into play, winter poses a higher demand because of retirees migrating from up north to escape the cold. “If they need a hip replacement, they’re not likely to do it up there,” says Bush. “You don’t want to go outside with a new hip or knee and trip or slip on the ice. They come down here to get treatment, and that more than doubles the need for blood and platelets locally in the winter.” According to Bush, even though there are more people moving to the area, only 3% of those people will end up donating. “It’s staggering when you realize that only 3% of our population is supplying 100% of the blood products for the community.” And when there’s only a sliver of people donating, there is never a large enough supply on hand. “We rarely ever have products that get to their 42-day shelf life,” he says. And of that 3%, the average age is 54 (and older for this area). Unfortunately, in more cases than not, many do not become donors until a loved one or someone they know has

been diagnosed with a severe illness or been in a serious accident. For Kevin, a local Sarasotan, his mother died of cancer when he was just 13. He watched his mother go through treatment, which included many 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 to SCBB faithfully every two weeks to donate platelets, which are vital in the treatment of cancer. Kevin has made 697 donations and he is a 161-gallon donor. To invigorate more lifelong donors like Kevin, who has been able to save thousands of lives over the years, SCBB continually looks to educate and engage high school and college students. The nonprofit hosts mobile blood drives throughout the school year and also offers scholarships to encourage continued participation. Students who donate three times their senior year, or volunteer 30 hours, are eligible to apply. To date, more than $275,000 has been awarded to students from 14 local high schools. “We rely heavily on this age group to supply blood. They are great candidates because they are young and healthy. If they begin donating as a teenager, like Kevin, they are likely to become life-long donors,” says Bush. Major incidents that are heavily publicized, such as the mass shootings in Las Vegas and Orlando, or devastating natural disasters such as a hurricane bring donors out. “After 911, there

This spread, left to right: Alexander needed 70 units of blood when he was accidentally shot in the chest by a friend; SCBB Donors

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NEIGHBORLY AND HEROIC AC TS Hannah’s Story BECAUSE OF A CARING, GENEROUS community that

was a line out the door. It was great how many people responded and wanted to help,” says Bush. “But we shouldn’t have to have mass tragedies to feel inspired to donate. There are elderly, injured and sick people in the hospital every day that need transfusions.” Cancers, blood disorders, rare diseases, aneurysm or sustaining someone through surgery after a car accident so they don’t perish on the table, are all instances where blood transfusions save lives. “It seems everyone is impacted by cancer in some way, be it a family member, friend or coworker,” he says, noting over half of SCBB’s platelet donations are needed by patients undergoing chemotherapy. “Chemo just wipes you out. It kills the cancer cells, but it also damages the healthy cells,” says Bush. “So, we need to replace those blood products so patients can function and survive. This aspect of the need for blood is not publicized like mass tragedies, but it’s the everyday reality. Cancer strikes everyone from infants to grandparents and many would not survive without blood products. Quite simply, there is no substitute for human blood when needed for treatment.”

literally donates a piece of themselves to strangers, SunCoast Blood Bank couldn’t do as much good as they do. “It really is an amazing gesture for someone you’ll likely never meet,” says Bush. Fredd and Shelia Atkins are both wellknown in Sarasota and have devoted their lives to their family and community. They are also life-long blood donors with SCBB. 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. They note, “No matter how busy life gets, you can find the time.” For Hannah Marsh, she remains inherently grateful for people like the Atkins. Hannah’s story began in 2008 when she was five years old. She woke up one morning with a severe nosebleed, bruising, and purple spots all over her body. ER doctors found that her platelet count was fatally low and her organs were shutting down. Fortunately, a quick diagnosis showed that Hannah had hemophagocytic lymph histiocytosis (HLH). HLH affects about one in 1.2 million children and causes an immune system malfunction, destroying red and white blood cells and platelets. She didn’t respond to the treatment, and her only hope for a cure was a bone marrow transplant. “There was no match in our family or in the entire U.S. We finally got a match in Germany,” said her mom Kelly Marsh. “Hannah received the transplant one day before her sixth birthday, but for all the months leading up to that, she was totally dependent on blood and platelet transfusions to survive.” In all, Hannah received more than 400 life-sustaining units of blood and platelets. Hannah’s older sister Shelby, became a blood donor as soon as she was old enough, and the youngest plans to donate as soon as she turns 16. “Before this happened, I really didn’t understand the importance of having a local blood bank that provides the appropriate blood for transfusion as well as having an adequate, safe blood supply within the community,” says Shelby. “I did not have any idea that my family would would go through something like this.” To get the next generation on board with donating to save lives like hers, Hannah strongly encourages her fellow high school peers to get on board with becoming avid donors, as she herself is now an active and frequent donor. “I want to give back to the community and thank donors for what they did for me 11 years ago when I was a kid,” she says. “I was given hundreds of bags of blood for months on end. So, I just want to give back a little of what I received.”


LOOKING TO THE FUTURE SunCoast Blood Bank looks to make waves in healthcare on a local and global level.

This page, left to right: New operations and donor center opening in March at 3025 Lakewood Ranch Blvd. Test tubes holding blood samples

CONTINUING TO REMAIN ON THE CUTTING-EDGE of bio research and cellular therapy, donors who come through the doors soon realize SunCoast Blood Bank doesn’t just host mobile blood drives around town—it’s what happens to the blood after. A new wave of therapy, called CAR-T, is going to use the patient’s own blood cells to actually fight their cancer. “These are the types of innovative cancer therapies and treatments we’re going to participate in,” shares Bush. “CAR-T is a form of immunotherapy that uses specially altered T cells and holds a lot of promise,” And come March, SunCoast Blood Bank will expand to a brand new 25,000-acre facility in Lakewood Ranch to conduct further bio research, along with all its operations. With the organization having completely run out of space—having to open four smaller facilities spread among four countries— consolidating all its components into one center will ultimately ensure higher efficiency. “We’re all going to be under one roof again,” shares Bush. “This will consolidate our operation and make us even leaner and more cost effective. We already have one of the most competitive cost structures in the United States, definitely in Florida.” The new headquarters will house product manufacturing and components, the warehouse, as well as a reference lab for patient testing. The lab will allow SCBB to test for patient compatibility and antibody identification at the DNA molecular level. The Lakewood Ranch facility will also encompass one central administration office, as well as a large donor center with state-of-the-art collection and testing instruments that will maximize blood donor and recipient safety and comfort. Upon completion, SCBB will concentrate on a long-needed renovation of its flagship donor center located at 1760 Mound Street in Sarasota. Additionally, SunCoast Blood Bank recently invested in a testing laboratory in Stone Mountain, Georgia. The partnership with 12 other nonprofit blood centers throughout the United States is the first of its kind. Testing and screenings are mandatory for every blood product collected and extremely expensive. “We have the safest blood supply in the world. But it comes at a cost,” says Bush. “Safety of the blood supply is our highest priority and having the testing center will allow us to dictate and control our own pricing—allowing us to be very competitive and actually keep the prices down, instead of pharmaceutical companies telling us to expect an increase.” With a dozen national blood banks banning together, testing can be done at cost. Effectively, this contributes to lowering the cost of healthcare in our community. The collaboration allows SunCoast Blood Bank to share the volume of over one million samples and utilize Atlanta as a tier one airport to get units shipped in from anywhere around the country. “I think it will create the most competitive pricing in the United States for any kind of donor testing in the U.S,” states Bush. “And those savings just get passed on to the community. It will have an immediate impact.”

To learn more about how you can financially support SCBB through gifts or bequests, please contact Jayne Giroux, 941-954-1600 ext 124, jgiroux@scbb.org To schedule a blood donation, contact 1-866-97-BLOOD, www. scbb.org, @suncoastbb.

DONATION CENTERS MOUND

1760 Mound St., Sarasota, 34236. LAKEWOOD RANCH PLAZA

1731 LWR Blvd., Bradenton, 34211 BIRD BAY PLAZA

539 US Hwy 41 Bypass, North Venice, 34285 BAYSHORE GARDENS, BAYSHORE SHOPPING CENTER

6026 14th St., West Bradenton, 34207

To volunteer for SCBB, contact Joan Leonard, 941-954-1600 ext 150, jleonard@scbb.org SunCoast Blood Bank is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization whose federal identification number is 59-0873275.

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SRQ Magazine | BRANDSTORY: The SunCoast Blood Bank February 2020