If you ever met Megan Mehta, you’d be struck almost instantly by her energy, her vivacity. Megan was born with a lust for life and has spent the past five years reclaiming that energy after having spent ages 8 to 13 in a state she can “best describe as the color gray.” Thanks to the generosity of blood and organ donors, Megan was able to overcome heart failure and receive a life-saving transplant at age 13. Since then, she has taken every opportunity to live her life to the fullest, a life she now describes as “the color of sunshine, happiness.”
This is Megan’s story.
Diagnosis and Early Years: “Gray”
Megan was (and still is) an overachiever, and, from an early age, she loved to be involved in anything and everything. By early elementary school, she was active in basketball, was deeply passionate about taekwondo and loved any opportunity to run around a playground or go hiking or biking with her family and friends. However, at age 8, Megan began exhibiting some concerning symptoms, and her family took her to the hospital to have her evaluated.
They were devastated to learn that Megan was dealing with the effects of dilated cardiomyopathy, a heart condition that makes it progressively more difficult for the heart to pump blood over time. To avoid strain on her heart, Megan was immediately pulled out of all of her sports and was forced to avoid any strenuous physical activity for her own safety.
From second through seventh grade, Megan could not participate in PE, could not ride bikes or run, could not play any sports. She could not even go on field trips due to strain from too much walking and physical activity.
Always the optimist, Megan focused on understanding what she could of her condition, taking her medications and spending time on activities she could enjoy. She fell in love with video games, she was an excellent assistant to her PE teacher and she worked hard at finding new ways to fill her time. But, still, it was a major struggle.
“As a kid, it’s so hard,” she said. “I would watch all my friends running around, and I loved being able to cheer them on from the sidelines, but I couldn’t ever play with them.”
“I like to think of my feelings as colors,” she said. “Between the time I was diagnosed and the time I was put on the transplant waiting list, my life was gray. I was existing, but I wasn’t enjoying my life.”
Heart Failure: “Darkness”
Though Megan had remained stable for four years after her diagnosis, she and her family knew that, at any point, her life could be in danger. Megan was in seventh grade when she could feel herself “deteriorating quickly.” Doctors had no choice but to put Megan on the transplant waitlist and hope for a matched heart to come available before it was too late. She returned home where she was “chained to a milrinone pump, a portable IV pump that delivered medication directly to my heart through my chest port 24/7,” she said.
“Everything felt like the color of darkness during this time,” Megan added. “Both physically and emotionally, I was exhausted.” Megan and her family worried that she may not live long enough to even see her middle school graduation.
Then, in February of the next year, they got their miracle: Four months after she was put on the transplant waiting list, she was told that she had a new heart. Instantly, everything changed.
Life After Transplant: “Sunshine”
Megan received her transplant — and a lot of donated blood — on February 24, 2016. Since then, she shared, “Life has been sunshine, or pink. All my happiness returned.” Just a few months after her transplant, she has a very vivid memory of riding her bike five miles, just enjoying her freedom and her ability to live life on her own terms once again.
At the time of writing, Megan is about five-and-a-half years post-transplant… and she hasn’t wasted a moment. Now that she is free from her physical restrictions, she and her family hike and camp often, she has enjoyed multiple vacations out of state (Previously, it would be too risky to be that far from her doctors.), and she has been truly appreciating all the milestones and events she has been able to attend that, at one point, she wasn’t sure she’d see.
“I just graduated high school in June and it was such a huge moment for me because, when I was on the transplant waiting list, I wasn’t even sure I’d survive to start high school, much less finish it,” she said. She also holds dear getting to be part of her sister’s college graduation and getting to enjoy and dance at some of her family members’ large Indian weddings!
Megan isn’t just focusing on her own life, though. Since her transplant, she has dedicated much of her time to being an advocate for organ donation in the hopes of helping future patients. While in high school — and simultaneously taking college courses — Megan founded multiple clubs to promote organ donation among her peers and in her community, including the first-ever high school chapter of Student Organ Donation Advocates. Megan is attending UC Berkeley in the fall and is excited at the opportunity to get involved with the medical clubs on campus to highlight organ donation there as well.
The mark Megan has made on her community in such a short period of time is truly inspirational, and we at SBC are so privileged to get to have a hand in telling her story. To learn more about other transplant patients like Megan and how you can offer support, visit stanfordbloodcenter.org/sbc-dnw.
Bloodworks Northwest Joins Blood Emergency Readiness Corps
On May 1,Bloodworks Northwest joined 30 blood centers across the nation to form the Blood Emergency Readiness Corps (BERC), a first-in-the-nation partnership among community blood centers around the country to ensure blood availability whenever and wherever disaster strikes.
Bloodworks’ joining BERC means (1) that local donors can directly help when mass casualty events like natural disasters or mass shootings occur elsewhere in the United States, and (2) that when needs in our community exceed our local supply, other blood centers will be prepared to quickly transport blood to our region.
Bloodworks Northwest is the sole provider of blood to more than 95% of the hospitals in Western Washington and Oregon. As part of the BERC partnership, Bloodworks commits to storing extra units – approximately 15 units of O negative and O positive blood – on a rotating “on call” schedule to be available for BERC members for immediate emergency need.
Bloodworks will be on call for seven days during a three-week rotating schedule beginning in June. If the units are not used, the units will be put back into the local inventory for distribution.
“Bloodworks Northwest stands ready to assist other blood centers if called upon to provide emergency shipments to help communities in need near and far,” said Curt Bailey, President and CEO of Bloodworks Northwest. “This underscores the importance of having a strong inventory of blood available at all times in order to respond immediately when natural or man-made disasters happen in our local community and beyond.”
However, with regional blood supplies hovering around a 1-2 day supply, would there be enough locally- sourced blood if the Pacific Northwest was faced with its own mass casualty event?
“Our community is running dangerously low on the platelets and Type O blood needed to supply local hospitals, and straining our ability to provide transfusions for every cancer and surgery patient who need them,” said Bailey.
“If a mass trauma event were to happen today, we would not have enough blood available to help everyone who needs it. It is vital people donate blood to support everyday needs of patients as well as unforeseen emergencies.”
Curt Bailey, Bloodworks Northwest President and CEO
Before BERC, community blood centers facing a mass need event have relied on the goodwill of other blood centers to send additional units, which is sometimes limited or uncertain. With the country experiencing an ongoing nationwide blood shortage, creating an emergency blood reserve allows Bloodworks and other BERC members to know exactly how much extra blood they can count on.
To date, the program activated to support a mass shooting at a grocery store near Memphis, TN, a mass shooting at a school near Detroit, MI, and a mass casualty event brought about by a series of tornadoes throughout the Midwest. The recent shootings last weekend in Buffalo, Texas, and California highlight the need and effectiveness of an emergency reserve system.
In Washington and Oregon, 1,000 donors per day are needed to keep the blood supply at a safe and reliable level, since every two seconds, someone in our region needs blood. It does not take much for the supply to drop: one snowstorm, one tragedy, one heatwave can send it back to an unsafe level.
To donate blood, schedule an appointment at Bloodworksnw.org or 800-398-7888. Same day appointments are available. There is an especially high need for donors heading into Memorial Day.
About BERC: The Blood Emergency Readiness Corps was founded in 2021 to meet the immediate transfusion needs of hospitals and their patients when faced with a large-scale emergency situation that requires blood transfusions. To learn more and see a list of participating blood centers, visit bloodemergencyreadinesscorps.org.
To learn more about how blood emergencies on the ground at Bloodworks, listen to this episode of our podcast, Bloodworks 101, with Bloodworks Executive Vice President of Blood Services Vicki Finson titled “We Weren’t Going to Be Able to Help Them.”
“From the Heart, to the Heart,” Chef Thierry Rautureau (S3 E23)
French-born Chef Thierry Rautureau has been a pillar of the Seattle culinary for decades as the visionary of such seminal restaurants as Rover’s Loulay, and Luc. When we approached him to join our Culinary Coalition in support of blood donation, he eagerly agreed and said in his interview with Bill Harper, “without blood, there is no life.” Well said, Chef. À table!
Chef Rautureau: Well, here we go. It’s Sunday morning. Guess what? I couldn’t find anything better to do than going to give my blood. Why? There is such a high need. Come on. It’s free. It’s simple. Those guys are super nice, welcoming, and it takes five minutes to do. Just do it.
[foreign language 00:00:21-00:00:40] .
Bill Harper: Hi. I’m Bill Harper, and this is Bloodworks 101, an Anthem Award-winning podcast from the Pacific Northwest Primary Blood Center that’s designed to inspire you to donate time, money, or blood. Bloodworks is currently hosting a region-wide campaign to partner with the Pacific Northwest’s best chefs, brewmasters, and purveyors of delicious delicacies to inspire 10,000 new donors by June 30th.
We’re calling it “Savor Life, Save a Life,” and it is magnifique. And one of those chefs is Thierry Rautureau, the French-born James Beard Award-winning chef of such Seattle culinary institutions as Rovers, Loulay, and Luc. Known as “The Chef in the Hat,” he’s one of my personal heroes. And on a gray March Sunday, he came in to donate blood. And I sat down to ask him about his life, why food is like blood, and why now, of all times, he’s asking food lovers everywhere to donate blood. [foreign language 00:01:35] .
Chef Rautureau: And, you know, it’s like restaurants are just like anything [inaudible 00:01:42] . If it’s really good and really small, the guy at the helm eventually has to quit.
Bill Harper: Yeah. That’s…
Chef Rautureau: Nobody lives forever.
Bill Harper: Yeah.
Chef Rautureau: So it brings me back to the next subject. Nobody lives forever; however, in order to live, you gotta eat, you gotta drink, and you most definitely have to donate blood because your good blood is good for someone else as well. And it’s so painless to do it, so simple. Just need to take the time. Make the appointment. Come and visit. In 30 minutes, you’re in and out.
Bill Harper: [foreign language 00:02:18-00:02:57] .
Chef Rautureau: And in the middle of all this, you speak perfect French.
Bill Harper: [foreign language 00:02:59] .
Chef Rautureau: How does that work? How does that work? To translate what he just said, if anybody needs translation, he says reading the white lines on the bottom of the screen he was just mentioning how he had leukemia a few years ago. And you know what? That’s what saved your life.
Bill Harper: [foreign language 00:03:18] .
Chef Rautureau: All that blood collected from people donating, and it’s so easy. You can save one’s life so easily. One pint, one life. By the way, how you doing today?
Bill Harper: Great. Perfect. No problems at all.
Chef Rautureau: Wow.
Bill Harper: Just had recent surgery. So that’s why the crutches, but I had a stem cell transplant from a girl from Oklahoma, saved my life. And I got 267 transfusions of blood from Bloodworks. I was a patient at Seattle Children’s for eight years. And physicians there, they couldn’t have done the work that they did for me in chemotherapy and surgeries without the blood from Bloodworks. And so…
Chef Rautureau: 267 pints.
Bill Harper: Yeah.
Chef Rautureau: That’s 267 donation.
Bill Harper: Yeah.
Chef Rautureau: That’s so little to save one’s life.
Bill Harper: Yeah. This is…
Chef Rautureau: But it’s a miracle. I mean, you look like nothing has ever happened.
Bill Harper: Yeah. I mean, it’s just it’s so great to come back here and see people. And…
Chef Rautureau: No. Of course. Of course.
Bill Harper: Yeah.
Chef Rautureau: It’s like a family.
Bill Harper: Yeah.
Chef Rautureau: [crosstalk 00:04:11] .
Bill Harper: It’s good just to know that, you know, like, when I was in those hospital beds at Children’s, like, there are people out there coming in, taking their Sunday morning, Sunday afternoons, and taking time to save my life without even knowing my name or anything about me. So when was the last time you donated blood?
Chef Rautureau: I donated blood when I was 17 years old in France.
Bill Harper: [inaudible 00:04:31] .
Chef Rautureau: So that was… It was a long time ago. Let me see. Seventeen, you know, in ’62. So you do the math.
Bill Harper: So we came to you. Now, what’s the “Savor Life, Save a Life” campaign? And so what’s really driving you to want to be involved in this program, be involved with us? What? Like, why now?
Chef Rautureau: Well, as mentioned before, you know, when we had the [inaudible 00:04:53] the restaurant industry is one of those industry for some reason you hear “I need,” and somehow they show up.
Bill Harper: Mm-hmm. Yeah. [crosstalk 00:05:03] .
Chef Rautureau: I mean, at the worst of day, broken down, you still show up. Why? Just because it doesn’t… I think one of the main reason is it doesn’t involve cash. It only involves time, and it involves spirit. And it involve belief in the community. It involve, you know, believing in the support of each other. Today, I’m healthy, and I’m joyful. You might be broken and hurting. You know, and that’s just the way life goes. Not everybody is all at once up, and not everybody’s down at one time. So when you’re up, you have to think of the people who are down because, just so because, tomorrow it could be you. You know, you don’t donate anything in life. That’s what donating means. It means you’re not thinking, “I’m gonna need it.” You’re thinking, “They need it.” Right? That’s what the word “donate” mean. “Donate” doesn’t mean you’re thinking, “What am I gonna get back for it?” That’s business. That has nothing to do with donation. Donation is when your heart says, “That’s the right thing to do for the people that needs it.” So you donate without thinking because you can. That’s all there is to it, not, “I have money so I can buy anything I want” because you can. That’s a different story. This one is donation. It’s from the heart, goes straight to the heart.
Bill Harper: Yeah. Donating blood is literally a gift from the heart.
Chef Rautureau: Yeah. Absolutely.
Bill Harper: [foreign language 00:06:31] .
Chef Rautureau: From the heart to the heart. I mean, from one heart to another. It’s like a little love story.
Bill Harper: It is a love story.
Chef Rautureau: Probably is love of life, for sure.
Bill Harper: Absolutely. Yeah. So how did Chef Rautureau from a small town in France who came to America on a newspaper ad with $14 in his pocket end up in Seattle?
Chef Rautureau: Started with 14 bucks in my pocket and never looked back. I was in Los Angeles for five years and then came to Seattle to see that same buddy had moved back up to Seattle with his wife, Caroline, and so went to visit Cyril and Caroline in Seattle and went to this place called Rover’s, had just got the little review in the LA Time. And little house converted into a restaurant, very small, 24 seats. Went into there. So bought the restaurant with a partner, and two years later, I bought my partner and never looked back. Been flying solo ever since, and it’s been an incredible career. You know, in the last two year… No, not two years. In the last six months, and I have no restaurant left. You know, been working, and just the paperwork needs to be wrapped up and all that. But in general, I don’t have to go to restaurant every day. And I start looking back a little bit, which I never done in my entire life. It’s a bit weird and scary to see how much one can do in a lifetime. That’s a lot of blood, as they say. You know, it’s like lot of sweat, lots of tears, and lots of blood is given into that life. I feel like I’ve already worked two lifetimes since 14 years old. You know, the average day is such a long day. It’s like I’m 62. So at 61, I worked from 14 to 61. I’m like, “Yeah. In terms of hours, that’s definitely two lifetime of work.”
Bill Harper: Yeah. Well, yeah. That summer that I was working in that French restaurant, it was 18-hour days 6 days a week. Yeah.
Chef Rautureau: And it’s not a joke. I was 14 years old. I was skinny like a green bean, like a small kid. I wasn’t tall. I was short on top of it. So that doesn’t help, but, I mean, I would work 7:30 in the morning. You would come downstairs. You have your coffee, your cigarette…
Bill Harper: [inaudible 00:08:52] .
Chef Rautureau: …non-filter first thing in the morning. I mean, talking about the worst health ever. Most importantly, the heart was definitely taking a beating because you were pumping really hard all day long. But anyway, yeah. I mean, you start at 7:30 in the morning. The chef would come at quarter to eight. We had an 1897 coal stove, all beautiful porcelain and metal and, of course, iron. But every morning, we’d have to fill up the… Three times a day, we had to fill up from the pile of coal and then fill up the stove, taking the rings off, filling up the stove. I mean, looking back, I’m like, “That’s pretty cool. Looking in, absolutely horrible.”
And the chef would walk in. He was just like, oh, you wouldn’t believe this. This person was a monster, but he would walk in and be like, “What are you guys, not awake this morning?” Like, anyway, shaking all day long, smoking bad cigarettes, and eating chicken wings for dinner. You know, it’s like whatever. It’s like it was just horrible.
Bill Harper: Chef certainly has come a long way from those days, with three beautiful restaurants in Seattle winning the highest accolades in the culinary world. After the pandemic shut down his last two, what’s next for Seattle’s “Chef in the Hat”?
Chef Rautureau: I think I’m in a stage in my life where consulting, you know, doing jobs like that perfectly, I’ll use my experience to help, you know, to input into other businesses. But physically being on the line, now way. I can’t do it no more, and this is not a weak person talking. This is a smart person talking. I’ve already spent 60 years, most of my 60 years, working. Is this a goal of me to die in the kitchen? Never. I am not that guy. I wanna see the world. I want to see more of the diversification we have offering on this planet. I’m not the kind of person that just want one thing. I’m not monochromatic, I hope. I mean, I love what I do. Don’t get me wrong. It’s been my life. It’s been so fun. You know, having the chance in a lifetime to have a restaurant like Rover’s where you can just play every single day at your craft is one of the biggest wish anyone should have.
Bill Harper: [crosstalk 00:11:19] .
Chef Rautureau: I never knew this was gonna be like that, but I’m glad I walked that life. You know.
Bill Harper: You contributed to the entire food culture in the city and, I think, well, the country too. I mean that’s…
Chef Rautureau: And I’m glad I was part of that movement or part of, you know, helping or part… I don’t even know if it was any help. I think it was a… You know, restaurants are like blood. You need them. You need that blood to be part of your community. You know, it’s part of us. What would life be without a restaurant or a bar? It’d be pretty sad. I mean, it would be very sad. We saw that during COVID where you couldn’t get out of your house or you couldn’t go into public places. How much was that missed? Tremendously. It changed our entire life.
That was a very sad… I don’t think people do well without the social part of life, you know, which brings back the whole thing to what we started with. We live in a community. We are sensing each other.
You definitely need to have and donate blood because, you know, without blood there is no life.
So, you know, that great campaign that’s happening right now, “Savor Life Save a Life,” is such a great momentum because all those restaurants everyone needs to eat. And the saying is if you go out and you’re gonna go into a restaurant and you’re gonna give life to that restaurant.
The same thing is true for blood. You go to the Bloodworks, and you just donate your blood. And you save a life, and it’s such a simple, simple thing to do. Make an appointment. Show up. Give your blood. Save a life. I mean, in four steps, you just saved someone’s life. It’s very simple.
Bill Harper: Many thanks to Chef Rautureau and all the other participants in our “Savor Life Save a Life” blood donation campaign. I like what Chef said there, “from the heart to the heart,” like a [foreign language 00:13:20] or [foreign language 00:13:22] or the last blood transfusion before a child reaches remission, the best things in life really do begin in the heart. Merci beaucoup for listening, and please remember to subscribe.
I’m Bill Harper with Bloodworks 101 asking to please go to bloodworksnw.org and make an appointment to donate blood. Make that donation by June 30th, and you can enter to win a one-of-a-kind culinary experience. [foreign language 00:13:50] .
“It Takes All Types at Three Magnets Brewery” (S3 E24)
Something special is brewing at Olympia’s Three Magnets Brewery. It’s a new blood orange red IPA that’s part of a blood donation awareness campaign with Bloodworks Northwest called, “Savor Life Save a Life.” And on this edition of Bloodworks 101, producer John Yeager tells us that there’s a lot more to this special beer than ingredients like hops and barley and even the creativity of the brewers. If you want to find the heart of this story, just ask Sara Reilly, one of the co-owners at Three Magnets.
Click here to listen to this delicious episode if our Bloodworks 101 podcast and when you’re done, be sure to schedule a blood donation appointment too; you never know who’s out there counting on you for help. Below is a local news spot about the “It Takes All Types” launch, followed by a transcript of this episode.
John: One, two, three. One, two, three. One, two, three. All right, can you tell me who you are and what you do?
Sarah: My name is Sarah Reilly. My husband and I own Three Magnets Brewing Company in Olympia, Washington.
John: So why are you guys involved? Well, just give me an overview about what’s going to happen regarding Savor Life with you guys here.
Sarah: Yeah, so we were asked to join the campaign to brew a special beer for it. And we are doing that in collaboration with many different organizations, Lucky Envelope Brewing, Flatstick Pub, of course, Bloodworks, and Imperial Yeast. We’re making a blood orange IPA for it, which is kind of a [inaudible 00:00:52], I suppose.
The reason why we wanted to get involved was partially because blood transfusions helped save my father’s life. While he was going through some heart failure, he ended up with a heart transplant. And of course, blood is an imperative part of that process.
John: So could you tell me who you are and what you do?
Jim: Yeah, my name is Jim Ellsner. I’m a retired sales rep with an oil company.
John: So, Jim, tell me about what went through…well, what you went through in that period before you had to get the heart transplant, and then just bring us along for that ride, if you will.
Jim: Sure, I was working, and in January of 2011, my heart pretty much went into heart failure. And I spent a few weeks at the local hospital at Providence, working with my cardiologist and everyone there, and was slowly but surely dying.
And my cardiologist, thoughtfully, about two years prior to that, knew that, at some point, I was going to need more help than he could give. And he sent me to the University of Washington, the Northwest Heart Center. And I met with a doctor up there, Dr. Wayne Levy.
And so, I had an association with this fellow. And in January of 2011, my heart pretty much went into failure, and they did as much as they could for me in Olympia, and then sent me to the University of Washington. And within a few days up there, they ended up putting an LVAD heart pump in me, a little rotary vein pump that runs all the time. It was pretty cutting-edge stuff at the time. And in fact, our ex-vice president, Dick Cheney, had one just like that.
And so, I think I was somewhere, like, maybe in the 40s, number 44 or something like that, of the number of LVAD heart pumps they’d put in. And now they’ve done just tons of them. And as a result of that, I was on that for about 23 months, whereupon, I finally got a heart and had a heart transplant in December of 2012.
And so, as you know, during things like that, they have to put you on a heart-lung machine and transferring fluids in body, you know, blood and everything around. And so, the blood was a very big part of it, and I used a lot of it.
And so, I’ve been very grateful to, you know, the Blood Center and to the University of Washington for giving me an opportunity to live a longer, fuller life.
John: So when you see people donate blood now, it’s personal?
Jim: It’s very personal. Yeah, there’s such a demand for it now. And I guess now, especially. And I think most people just don’t realize how big a need that there is out there. Every day, there’s a huge need.
John: And what do you feel like seeing him…having him around for a few more years?
Sarah: Yeah, I mean, my dad was only 59 when he went into heart failure. I was married, but I didn’t even have children yet. Now I have a 6 and 8-year-old that have a grandfather that they would not have had if the technology wasn’t around and if the donations weren’t around. So very grateful to have him around. We did lose my mother five years ago. And so, it’d be pretty hard to have lost both parents so young. Yeah.
John: So what’s your message for people out there? I mean, I can pretty much fill in the blank. But personally, how do you want people to consider blood donation right now? What’s your message to people, in short?
Sarah: I think giving blood is something that’s very simple, doesn’t take very much time, but makes such a massive impact. People just have to remember that it’s something they need to do and try to make make it a regular basis and constantly give. And, you know, it really makes an impact, something very simple that can save a life.
John: So, as far as Three Magnets, give me an idea as far as what you guys are doing for the campaign or how we… Yeah, give me an idea of what you’re doing for the campaign.
Sarah: Yeah, the whole idea behind this campaign is to make sure that people are aware that there is not enough blood right now. It’s critical levels. And so, really, we’re just trying to get the word out. So that will be on our can, and that message will be given across at many different restaurants and pubs throughout the Pacific Northwest to just remind people that it is a dire time.
John: Is there a special brew that you guys are making?
Sarah: Yes, yeah. Blood orange IPA, along with Lucky Envelope Brewing. It seems appropriate, of course, because of blood. And then you always think of blood donations and orange juice. And, you know, just a little reminder to people and also kind of funny at the same time.
John: Is there anything else that you’d like to add that I didn’t ask? Jim, what about you?
Jim: You know, I think one of the things that’s important is for people to really think about this is, it is such a simple thing giving blood. And what most people really don’t put in their mind is that it could happen to you. Tomorrow, you could be in a car wreck.
Tomorrow, you could have a massive hemorrhage or something and need a massive amount of blood. And so, we’re all vulnerable, and it’s important to just get out there and let that little simple thing save somebody’s life, and it might be their own.
John: Thank you. Thanks, guys.
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