Lives You Save: Patient Stories

Family thanks eight strangers who saved their young son’s life

“Thank you for saving our boy.”

Devra Schwartz, and her husband, Jeff, recently had a chance to express their gratitude to eight of the 100 strangers whose blood donations provided a lifeline for their son, Judah, now 4. The Santa Monica youngster nearly died last year when his kidneys failed due to foodborne E. coli infection.

Judah underwent 47 transfusions in 21 days, his 37-pound body hooked to a dozen machines in the pediatric intensive care unit at UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital.

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Father of two thanks blood donors who saved his life

Tyler Bacon met some of the people who donated blood and platelets while he was being treated for cancer at UCLA

As Tyler Bacon gripped the lectern in Carnesale Commons and scanned the crowd gazing at him expectantly, he struggled to hold back tears.

The 39-year-old father of two from Thousand Oaks was finally meeting some of the more than two dozen people whose blood and platelet donations sustained his life during cancer treatment at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.

"Because you showed up and donated, my parents still have a son," Bacon said. "My children have a dad. My wife has a husband."

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Brave toddler meets 24 strangers who saved her life

Blood and platelet donations sustained 2-year-old as she fought two rare cancers at UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital

It took a team of UCLA medical professionals and the generosity of 71 strangers to save 2-year-old Skye Savren-McCormick’s life.

The toddler from Ventura, California, required frequent blood and platelet transfusions, often on a daily basis, while undergoing three grueling bone-marrow transplants, surgery to remove her swollen spleen and seven rounds of chemotherapy for leukemia and lymphoma. She received 77 units of blood and platelets during a 10-month stay at UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital

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Jorge’s story

Jorge Sincuir, a frequent donor at the UCLA Blood & Platelet Center, who found himself in need of multiple blood transfusions following a near-fatal car accident. 

As UCLA undergraduates, brothers Jorge and Andrew Sincuir donated blood and platelets often. In fact, after Andrew learned that a patient responded well to his platelets, he began donating every two weeks, racking up 67 donations over four years.  

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Brandon Levine

On January 30, 2015 Brandon received the rare opportunity to meet with 40 of the people who helped saved his life through blood donations. Brandon nearly died in a motorcycle accident on April 27th and in efforts to save him received over 200 units of blood products. During the event, Brandon was able to share his story with the donors that helped save his life and personally thank them by saying "...a part of you is inside of me and that's why I'm standing here today."

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Related Links:  CBS Los Angeles | U.S. News & World Report | Daily Mail

Jennifer Calderon

Due to confidentiality laws, most blood donors never know who receives their blood. Similarly, patients never learn the identities of those who donated their time and blood to save their lives. But a rare reunion organized by the UCLA Blood and Platelet Center changed that. A young mother who nearly died from massive bleeding after giving birth to her premature son was able to meet seven blood and platelet donors who sustained her life with their generous donations.

On January 31, 2014, Jennifer expressed her gratitude for the 24 units of donated blood, plasma and platelets that preserved her life — and allowed her sons to have their mother. Jennifer suffered uterine hemorrhaging after a high-risk cesarean section at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in April 2013. Only 5-feet tall, she lost five liters of blood — nearly her entire supply — and was hospitalized at UCLA for two weeks, with two days in intensive care.

Related Links: CBS Los Angeles | NBC SoCal | KTLA 5 | facebook | KHTS AM 1220

Meet Donovan Ho!

Donovan Ho

"Thank you for saving my life"

In early 2010, Donovan Ho was diagnosed with myocardial myopathy, a condition in which weak heart muscles cause the organ to expand. Donovan was told he would need a heart transplant. While Donovan waited for the transplant, he was placed on an assist device. The assist device used platelets, which allowed Donovan to remain stable while he waited for the heart transplant. Donovan had his heart transplant surgery in March 2010, which used a total of 72 units of blood, platelets, and plasma.

Ho, 17, of Orange, Calif., will express his gratitude for the 72 units of donated blood, plasma and platelets that helped make his 2010 organ transplant successful after his heart failed. Accompanied by his 10-year-old brother, parents, grandparents and great-grandmother, he'll also encourage more people to donate blood and platelets for patients requiring lifesaving transfusions due to organ transplants, cancer, trauma and heart surgery.

On January 27, 2012 at the Annual Donor Recognition Luncheon, Donovan Ho was given the opportunity to meet 11 of the donors that helped save his life. The donors ranged in age, ethnicity, and professions. The Donor Recognition Luncheon focused on bringing together Donovan and his donors and giving him the opportunity to personally thank them.

It is unusual for donors to meet the recipient because of confidentiality laws. The UCLA Blood & Platelet Center made it possible after an extensive series of consent forms for the donors and the recipient. The annual event emphasizes the impact blood and platelet donors make each time they donate.

During the 8th Annual Donor Recognition Luncheon, Donovan said "It's people like you who continue to donate blood, allow people like me to stay alive and livelong happy and productive lives..." when speaking to Bonnie Rejaei, Dr. Josephine Isabel-Jones, Patrick Denny, Danny Varzi, Dan Le, John Manion, Daniel Goodman, Tony Kostas, Sean Holland Ross Carmichael, and Kevin Ellis, the 11 donors who he described as his "unsung heroes."

Related Links: Daily Bruin | OC Register | Ventura County Star | UCLA Dept of Pathology Newsletter

Jennifer Golden

Golden Family

Twenty-one year old college student Jennifer Golden from Las Vegas, Nevada received 24 units of blood products during her double lung and liver transplant surgery. Jennifer was diagnosed at 5 months old with cystic fibrosis, which affected her lungs and deteriorated her liver. At the time Jennifer received the transplant, her lung capacity was at 12% and she was constantly coughing and having to catch her breath. The 13 hour surgery performed at the UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center in 2011 was a success. During an interview, Jennifer was asked what she planned to do in the future and she answered "...I never really got a chance to think about what I wanted to do. It was always day by day. Now I can think about a future."

Related Links: U Magazine | ABC7 

John Paul Quintero

John-Paul Quintero

"Because of a rare form of anemia that my 3 year old son has, he needs blood transfusions every two to three weeks in order to survive.

So I urge you... make that call, make the time and donate blood. It doesn't cost a thing and it's worth more than all the money in the world - It's the gift of life and you can give it."

– Marisol Quintero
   John's Mother 

Alyssa Gomez

Alyssa Gomez

"You don't know how important donating blood is until you're sick." That's what Alyssa Gomez tells people and she knows it's true. In the fall of 2004, Alyssa was diagnosed with leukemia and her treatment requires that she receive both whole blood and platelets. Thanks to everyone who donated at the UCLA blood drive for Alyssa at Canterbury Elementary School and, thanks to many UCLA Blood & Platelet Center donors, Alyssa is getting the treatment she needs.

"We're proud to be a part of Alyssa's team, helping provide community support so that Alyssa, with her amazing attitude and big smile, will be able to do all the things a 9th grader wants to do: dance, act, model and enjoy the company of her good friends and loving family. You became part of Alyssa's Team, a team that included doctors, nurses, family and friends and now you!"

Gary Livitski

Gary Livitsky

"When the third of my three consecutive bone marrow transplants worked, I didn't know who was happier, me or the nearly 80 people who came into the UCLA Blood & Platelet Center and donated blood and platelets for me. Almost daily, for the entire three months that I was a patient at UCLA my friends, my family, and/or my fellow officers from the Beverly Hills Police Department came into the donor center to donate. Without fail, their experiences were fantastic.

Their time constraints were accommodated and any scheduling issues were handled. Even today, 4 years later, many of them still donate; and they do because they believe it's just the right thing to do. When people talk about donating as giving The Gift of Life they mean it. The more than 184 units of blood, platelets, and plasma I received helped save mine."

– Gary Livitski   

Lauren Larsen

Lauren Larsen became a multi-gallon blood recipient during the near-fatal birth of her only child. Several of her actual blood donors talk about what it was like to meet Lauren-and her family-in person four years after helping to save her life. This narrative underscores the direct connection between blood donors and the people whose lives they impact. This blood donation advocacy video was produced by In The Telling with educational funding from Johnson & Johnson.