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Bound by Blood — and Liver — Stanford Blood Center

By Krista Thomas, Communications Strategist

Gracielle Lee went into labor with her first and only child, Bryson, when she was just 22 weeks pregnant. At such a critical period, she, her husband Barry and their care team were anxious to delay delivery as long as possible. “Bryson’s likelihood of surviving at 22 weeks was very low so, if we wanted to save him, we’d have to stay at the hospital as long as possible, hopefully until at least 24 weeks to give him the best chance ,” she said. “The first couple of days were terrifying, just thinking about the risk of losing him. But we decided, if he was going to fight, we were going to fight, too,” Gracielle said.

After six weeks bedridden in the hospital, Gracielle finally gave birth to Bryson at about 29 weeks. And, while her ability to hold Bryson in for those additional weeks was immensely helpful, his birth wasn’t without complications. Bryson needed significant transfusions and, on top of the usual concerns doctors have for preemies, Bryson exhibited signs of impaired lung function. Perhaps most concerning was his liver function — or lack thereof.

Within just a few weeks of being born, Bryson was diagnosed with biliary atresia, a condition caused when the system that moves bile from the liver to the gallbladder does not develop properly. “When we first got the diagnosis, we were heartbroken, and a little lost and confused, too,” Gracielle said.

Doctors tried a preliminary procedure to fix the problem but ultimately determined that, at just about eight months old, Bryson’s only hope of survival was a liver transplant. Without hesitation, Barry volunteered. “When the doctors said, ‘liver transplant,’ there was no question. Either one of us would volunteer to save our son,” he said.

So, within just months of Gracielle’s extended hospital stay, it was now Barry’s turn. “The process for getting approved for the transplant at Lucile Packard was pretty smooth,” he said. “It was six or seven hours of running tests, talking to doctors, talking to psychiatrists. Then I spent one week in the hospital after my surgery and went home for a fairly lengthy recovery.”

During this time, Barry had limited mobility and needed extra help at home — but, at the same time, Bryson was still in the hospital recovering from his transplant. Gracielle split time between her two loved ones during their recovery. Bryson needed extra attention as he faced multiple complications and caught an illness that, given his weakened immune system, was particularly dangerous.

Bryson and BarryFinally, four months post-surgery, Bryson was released from the hospital and sent home with very intricate care instructions. “It was a very emotional and stressful time. I had to leave my job after six months because it was very overwhelming trying to take care of all of the equipment and care Bryson needed at home, plus trying to be an attentive wife and take care of my husband as he was recovering, too,” Gracielle said.

For Barry’s part, it was a struggle, wanting to step in and support the family but being limited by his own need to heal, too. “The best thing I could do for us was to try to keep us positive and keep us calm. I tried to keep a level head as best I could and help my wife and I look on the bright side when things were looking bad,” he said.

Ultimately, the family fought past some close calls and Bryson’s liver transplant was successful. Though Bryson still needs check-ins and extra care for some other developmental delays associated with his premature birth, over time, the hospital visits have become fewer and further in between and the family has found their “own sense of normal.” In addition to the blood donors who supported Bryson, they’re also extremely thankful for those who supported their family at Stanford Hospital. “We wouldn’t be where we are today if it weren’t for all the incredible surgeons, doctors, nurses and care team who took care of Bryson during his most difficult times!” Gracielle added.

Bryson is now three years old and a true bundle of joy. “He’s such an amazing little kid,” Barry said. “He’s super friendly, he absolutely loves people. He loves playing with balls, eating mac and cheese and exploring anything new.”

“I couldn’t imagine if he hadn’t gone through this, how much different he might be. I’d like to think it all happened for a reason and it has helped shape him into the loving, outgoing kid he is,” Gracielle added.

Having each given so much of themselves to save their child, both Gracielle and Barry are advocates for blood donation and organ donation and use their story to encourage others to educate themselves about the needs of patients like their son. You can learn more about how to support transplant recipients like Bryson — and how to become an organ donor like Barry — at stanfordbloodcenter.org/sbc-dnw.





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Donor Center Series: Denton – Carter BloodCare

This article is part of a series highlighting each of Carter BloodCare’s donor centers, their teams, and their commitment to serving their communities by fulfilling the mission to save lives by making transfusion possible.

Loop 288 & I-35E location is convenient for Denton residents, including students and faculty at UNT and TWU

Carter BloodCare’s Tammie Mann has a helpful reminder for Denton residents who want to donate blood to save local lives:

“You don’t have to wait for a mobile blood drive to come to your neighborhood or campus. You have a dedicated donor center right here in town and we’d love to see everyone come here to donate,” she said.

As site supervisor for Carter BloodCare’s Denton Donor Center, Mann is eager to welcome visitors to the location directly across from Golden Triangle Mall on Loop 288 near I-35E.

Open since August 2004, the Denton center has six donor beds and two screening booths. On average, Mann and her energetic team – Phlebotomist 1 Angelica Hernandez, Phlebotomist 1 Jaymee Inman and Phlebotomist 2 Jason Ivey – see more than 125 donors weekly and more than 500 donors per month.

“We have a lot of regular donors who have been coming in since the donor center opened,” said Mann, who has worked with Carter BloodCare for 21 years, including five years at the Denton center. “With the daily need for blood across our area, especially with the ongoing blood supply shortage, we’d love to see a steady increase day by day and bring in more new donors, in addition to our regulars.”

Considering Denton is home to two prominent universities – the University of North Texas (UNT) and Texas Woman’s University (TWU) – it seems natural that education is top of mind as a key strategy for donor outreach.

“It’s important for us to share the benefits of blood donation and awareness of community needs. It’s about education and customer service, and that starts with us when they come in,” Mann said.

With enrollment tallies of more than 40,000 students at UNT and 15,000 at TWU, the pool of potential Denton donors could have a significant, lifesaving effect for area patients in need of transfusions.

“That’s a lot of students and we’re so close to both campuses. Our donors come from all over and we do get some from UNT and TWU, but getting the community more aware that we’re here, especially between those two universities, would be a game-changer,” Mann said. “If we can get them more involved in donating, that would have such a positive impact on our entire community.”

Donors can begin giving blood starting at age 16, with parental consent; those 17 and older can donate blood independently. With that in mind, Mann said it’s also vital to reach out to local teens and their families.

“We want to educate the high schools around the donor center, too, so the younger generation will come to donate,” she said. “It’s so important for them to see the need for blood donation, and how they can give back to support their community across Denton and North Texas.”

Fridays and Saturdays tend to be the most active days at the donor center. Mann and her team readily welcome and accommodate walk-ins; donors are also encouraged to conveniently schedule an appointment by calling or texting 800-366-2834 or visiting CarterBloodCare.org.

“We are here for them and we’re ready to see even more from Denton come in to help by becoming regular donors,” Mann said.Denton Donor Center

“My favorite part of the job is when donors come back to give blood and express what a great job we do,” she said. “They thank us for what we do every day and we thank them for donating to help others.”

Details:

Carter BloodCare
Denton Donor Center
2215 South Loop 288, Ste. 335
Denton, TX 76205
940-383-2055

Hours of operation:
Monday – Friday      8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Saturday                  8 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Sunday                    Closed

Carter BloodCare’s team at the Denton Donor Center welcomes you for your next lifesaving donation to help Texas patients in need. To find additional donor centers near you, please visit CarterBloodCare.org, or call or text 800-366-2834 for an appointment.

 



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“Blood donors helped save my son’s life.”

Michelle and Jax Fisher




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    We thank you for your interest in donating blood and helping your community. A few eligibility requirements are important to know about during COVID-19. Donation eligibility during COVID-19 You cannot donate if you are inRead more


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Donate Blood

This Holiday Season, Give the Gift that Saves Lives

May Peace, Joy and Happiness be yours this holiday season.




  • 1-CBC-0103-COVID-Blog-Header



    We thank you for your interest in donating blood and helping your community. A few eligibility requirements are important to know about during COVID-19. Donation eligibility during COVID-19 You cannot donate if you are inRead more


  • Inventory-Graphic_111521



    Take a look at your community blood supply The need for blood never ends, but the available amount can change from day to day. Blood transfusion is one of the most frequently performed procedures inRead more


  • SPARKing-the-Giving-Season-1200-x-472-px



    SPARKing the Giving Season A new car in the new year? It’s in the bag for one lucky Carter BloodCare donor! Donors that donate blood with Carter BloodCare from Nov. 22, 2021 to Jan. 7,Read more


  • 2021 Veteran's Day



    Donate blood to honor our veterans and current service members This November, Carter BloodCare encourages eligible donors to step up in honor and support of our U.S. military veterans and active duty service members. VeteransRead more


  • Elizabeth Mendez 2



    “I would not be here today if it was not for blood donations,” said Fort Worth resident Elizabeth Mendez. In January 2020, the mother of two had an unexpected and frightening health emergency. Experiencing intenseRead more


  • Donate-blood-this-November-with-Soulmans-Bar-B-Que-1



    For the second consecutive year, Soulman’s Bar-B-Que and Carter BloodCare are teaming up this holiday season to beef up the local blood supply. In the spirit of giving, Soulman’s Bar-B-Que will host blood drives at theRead more


  • Realistic pink ribbon, breast cancer awareness symbol, vector illustration



    Breast Cancer Awareness Month: How Your Blood Donation Helps October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, when we are reminded of the importance of early detection, research, support and action in finding a cure. Breast cancerRead more


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    Eighteen years ago, Everett Dunkley returned from his honeymoon not feeling well and learned, only a few months later, he was facing a life-threatening leukemia diagnosis. Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a rapidly advancing formRead more


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    Donating platelets is another way you can safely and effectively help local patients. Platelets have a short shelf life, usually five to seven days total, including two days for testing; thus, there is a greatRead more


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