Who You’re Helping
When you give blood with LifeServe Blood Center, you’re truly saving local lives. We are the sole provider of blood to more than 120 hospitals in Iowa, South Dakota and Nebraska. Say hello to some of the lives you’ve saved and fellow LifeServers!
Want to share your story? We’d love to hear it. If you’ve received a blood transfusion and are looking for more information, click here.
Sioux City, Iowa
Thriving Sioux City artist Austin Rodriguez radiates positivity. He attributes it to his life philosophy he learned when he battled brain cancer during his teenage years.
“I joke about it now. A lot of people don’t like it – ‘Oh, Austin, we don’t want to about that’ – but why not? It’s my life. I’m still here. I’m thankful I’m here, so you might as well joke about it!” Austin said with a smile. “You never know what’s going to happen. Get cancer? Have a car accident? No matter how much blood you have, it may not be enough. Live your life to the fullest every day.”
It was a hard-won mindset. In 1997 at just thirteen years old, Austin was diagnosed with brain cancer. Two malignant brain tumors required multiple surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation. The intense treatment regimen was brutal.
“I’d be in children’s hospital for three days straight, then I’d come back to Sioux City and end up in St. Luke’s. I’d be constantly getting transfusions. There was probably about a month where none of the blood was mine,” Austin said. “It was all transfused blood.”
Now in his thirties, Austin paints in a downtown Sioux City art gallery, Gallery 103. When he’s not creating with bold colors and patterns, he’s volunteering his time or spending an hour in a LifeServe donor chair.
“The fact that I got so much help from the blood bank at that time, so many transfusions to help keep me going, help save my life, is such a blessing, and that’s why I give back now,” Austin said. “I know how much it’s needed.”
Buffalo Center, Iowa
July 26, 2004 is forever burned into Teresa Buns’s mind. Her daughters were driving on a gravel road when every parent’s worst nightmare happened.
Kylie Buns, only two at the time, was in the car with her 17 year old sister Danielle when they collided with another vehicle head on. “We were lucky enough that we actually hit a nurse at the end of her shift,” Kylie said. “She managed to get me out because I was crying. She knew that I was alive. Nobody thought at the scene that my sister was alive until they heard a moan. She was completely compacted into the vehicle.”
Little Kylie suffered a traumatic brain injury and required five units of blood.
“I had exposed brain. My skull cap was gone,” Kylie said. “I was life-flighted from the scene to Mason and then life-flighted to Mayo in Rochester. We were up in Mayo for a long time.”
Danielle’s injuries were extensive. She had a broken femur, broken back, a traumatic brain injury, as well as internal injuries. “In the first 14 days after the accident, she had 23 surgeries. Many were small,” Teresa explained. “Others were setting bones, skin grafts or facial reconstruction.” Danielle received more than 30 units of blood during the various procedures and surgeries. “She was in Rochester for three months but was seen there for over a year and had more surgeries,” Teresa said.
Today the girls are alive thanks to the quick actions by the nurse on the scene and the blood they received during that critical time of need. Kylie has three metal plates in her head today and does still suffer headaches especially in the winter, but considers herself lucky. “We’ve had a case study done on us because neither one of us should have made it whatsoever,” she said. “We should have… not made it out of the scene.”
Today donating blood is a family affair. Teresa has given more than four gallons in honor of those who saved her daughters. “This is the reason I give blood as often as I can. Without the blood donations my girls received, they would not be here,” Teresa said. “Many thanks to those who donated then. Me donating is the least I can do to give back.”
Kylie is already at the half gallon mark, a hefty total for her age. “I just want to give back to say thank you for donating to me.”
Scotland, South Dakota
Erica Mendoza, from Scotland, South Dakota, was in a serious car accident when she was 16. Her injuries were numerous, including several broken bones. Her knee? “Completely shredded,” Erica explained. A blood transfusion at the hospital set her on her way to healing and changed her entire perspective.
As soon as she was eligible to become a blood donor, Erica rolled up her sleeve and has never stopped giving back. “I realized there are people out there that care about people who are hurt,” Erica said. “It melts my heart knowing that I was saved and now I’m saving people.”
Erica’s favorite part of donating is knowing just how many people her donations are helping. “Knowing the blood they take out of me can help people? I just love it,” she said. Erica has given more than two gallons of blood so far and doesn’t plan to stop giving back any time soon. “I will continue donating blood until I’m no longer here,” she said with a smile.
Her biggest advice to first time donors? “If you don’t like needles, don’t look at them! It can really change a person’s life like it did mine.”
Des Moines, IA
Heather Berry sums up her feelings after her son Marquez was diagnosed with Wilm’s tumor, a kidney cancer, just after his first birthday: “Nothing in this world could prepare anyone for the words ‘your baby has cancer.'”
Heather considered their case lucky: Marquez’s cancer was stage one. Ten days after his initial diagnosis, he received his first blood transfusion during a six hour surgery to remove the tumor and kidney, which seemed nonexistent behind the massive growth. Little Marquez also received a port in his chest for the 22 weeks of chemotherapy treatment that lie ahead. As doctors operated, “more than two pints of someone else’s blood was keeping him alive,” Heather explained.
Two months into chemotherapy, Marquez was sleepy, sluggish, and pale. Another transfusion aimed to bring back his energy. “Within an hour of his transfusion, the color returned to his face and he perked right up, ready to fight another day!” Heather said. “It was unbelievable. That was the exact moment I realized how important blood donation was.”
Marquez is now a cancer survivor, almost three years into remission!
“I was told that in most cases, someone with the amount of injuries I had sustained would not make it through the night due to blood loss,” Cale explained of his harrowing life and death experience in 2017.
One July day, the delivery truck Cale was driving near Fort Dodge, Iowa was rolled when a tractor trailer ran a stop sign at an intersection. Cale’s injuries were devastating and numerous: a broken tibia, snapped femur, fractured pelvis, lacerated left elbow, and catastrophic flesh wounds to his left leg, leading to critical blood loss. “The hole on the outside of my left thigh was large enough for the surgeon to fit his hand into. In the ambulance to Fort Dodge, the paramedics were literally squeezing the bags of blood to pump the fluid into me to keep me alive.” Cale said.
His injuries were so extensive that paramedics had to resuscitate Cale en route to Fort Dodge and then again in an air ambulance as he was life-flighted to a hospital in Des Moines. In the first 24 hours following the crash, Cale received 15 units of blood; more than the average human body holds.
All in all, Cale underwent four surgeries in two weeks and is whole again. “If it weren’t for all of those units of blood, I wouldn’t be here. Thanks to the doctors, the emergency workers, the nurses, and all the donations from good people, it was possible,” he said.
Des Moines, IA
Blood donation is a regular part of the Nehring family’s lives; Mark has been a blood donor and blood drive chairperson, and he and his wife Kelsey have experienced the life changing nature of a blood transfusion when it drastically improved their daughter’s life at an early age.
Kelsey Nehring delivered baby Kaylee via emergency C-section at 32 weeks after doctors noted fetal distress. After a few weak cries, Kaylee was rushed to the neonatal intensive care center where she would spend the next eight weeks of her life. For weeks, she struggled against slow heart rate and apnea, a lack of breathing. Doctors told Kelsey and Mark that those problems would eventually resolve themselves, but the issues persisted and tests failed to provide a solid diagnosis for their daughter’s issues.
At six weeks old, Kaylee’s lab values were low and her skin was pale. A blood transfusion was ordered. Scared at the notion but hopeful, Kelsey and Mark stood by as the medical team started what they called the “pick me up” baby Kaylee would need to start functioning normally.
“I will never forget the first time I saw her after her first blood transfusion,” Kelsey explained. “She finally looked like a normal, healthy baby and I cried. I had gotten used to how sick and fragile she looked and I didn’t realize just how sick she was until I saw the healthy glow she had after she was given the gift of blood.”
Kaylee was discharged a few weeks later and is a sassy, healthy seven year old today.
“Words can never express how thankful we are for the loving person who took the time to donate a part of themselves for someone they would never meet,” Kelsey said. “Blood donation saved our child’s life and changed ours for the better.”
Twenty five units. That’s how much blood was needed to save Stella’s life during a 2016 medical crisis.
Stella has a rare neuromuscular disease called Spinal Muscular Atrophy, or SMA. SMA weakens the body’s muscle systems, including the ability to swallow, digest food and breathe independently. Stella already defied the odds by smashing through doctors’ expectations that she’d only survive for a few months after birth. Though she has used a feeding tube, ventilator, spinal fusion surgeries and infusions to keep her strong, Stella has remained bright and brave.
In September of 2016, things changed. Stella suddenly dropped into an extremely critical health crisis and was life-flighted to Iowa City. It was determined she had blood clots in her heart and lungs. Since Stella was already a medically fragile child, the news devastated her family. Stella was placed on ECMO, a prolonged heart-lung bypass for critically ill patients with severe but reversible respiratory failure. A surgery helped to manually remove the blood clots, but doctors found that her struggle wasn’t over. Her kidneys and liver were failing, too. Through dialysis and treatment of those 25 units of blood, Stella pulled through.
“We can’t express how thankful we are to the many blood donors who saved our sweet girl,” Stella’s mom Sarah said.
Des Moines, IA
In the summer of 2014, CarrieAnn learned she was pregnant with her sixth child. As pregnancy progressed, she was diagnosed with complete placenta previa, put on bedrest, and a cesarean section was scheduled. Spontaneous labor kicked in a month early, however, and an emergency c-section was performed. A healthy baby boy was born, but CarrieAnn went into a rapid tailspin and began bleeding out.
Medical staff started a blood transfusion and rushed her to the emergency room. Doctors performed a complete hysterectomy, during which CarrieAnn received 12 units of blood. During recovery her breathing failed and organs began to shut down. She was transferred to the ICU, where the bleeding started again. Another 3 units of blood were transfused.
Today, CarrieAnn is alive and well thanks to the blood donors who donated time to save her life. “My 4 year old son often tells me ‘Mom, I am so glad those strangers shared their blood with you so didn’t die,’” CarrieAnn explained. “When I talk to my children I always tell them how thankful I am for blood donors.”
Des Moines, IA
Lincoln was born in September of 2012. He was happy and healthy but had what his parents thought was eczema on this chest and in his diaper area. One evening when he was almost five months old, he spiked a high fever and the rash aggressively spread. An ER visit revealed that he needed a blood transfusion and had an enlarged liver and spleen. After many days of tests, he was diagnosed with Multiple System Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis (LCH) with Risk Organ Involvement.
Lincoln began chemotherapy right away; requiring a packed blood cell transfusion every other day and platelets at least once a day! On a few occasions, when platelets were in short supply, Lincoln would have to wait hours for his transfusions. In Lincoln’s case, he would sometimes have nose bleeds when his platelet counts were dangerously low.
Lincoln’s doctors discovered that Lincoln’s spleen was likely the culprit for his body’s destruction of platelets. An open spleenectomy was scheduled, but in order to do this very risky surgery, the hospital had to secure several units of blood and platelets in anticipation of his blood loss and clotting needs.
Lincoln recovered remarkably well from his surgery and although his blood product needs reduced significantly, he still had regular transfusions as a part of his chemotherapy. It is estimated that Lincoln has needed 60 platelet transfusions and almost as many blood transfusions. This was all in a period of less than five months! The hematologist said that he has NEVER worked with a patient who needed so many blood products in such a short amount of time.
Des Moines, IA
The Sandeen family’s world was turned upside down in April 2014 when their daughter Elayna was diagnosed with cancer. The strong girl had beaten the cancer into remission twice, but it returned both times. Elayna passed away in 2018 during her third courageous fight with cancer.
With each relapse treatment became more difficult for her body, but blood donations gave her the strength vital to carrying on, giving her more precious time with her parents. Elayna received almost 30 blood and 40 platelet transfusions to prolong her life.
“I have literally wheeled her in for a blood transfusion and, just a few hours later, been blessed to be able to watch her skip all the way down the hallway on the way out,” said Elayna’s mother Lucy. “Receiving blood products is life-saving, and in the process it is also life-changing. It allows her to feel more herself during a time when she has lost so much of that. Blood product donation allows her to play with a friend, ride her bike, or play outside, when she otherwise could not.”
Megan’s story began in November 2014 when she was 23 weeks pregnant with her third child: her first son, Evan. Around midday she rushed to the emergency room with spontaneous bleeding and was immediately admitted. Hospital staff told Megan and her husband that labor was beyond the point of no return and their son was too young to survive outside the womb.
“Pretty soon after that we realized he was going to die,” Megan said. The labor process took nearly a day and she bled on and off throughout. As medical staff struggled to control Megan’s bleeding, her hemoglobin count plummeted and she received several transfusions. Eventually Evan was born. At that point, Megan tearfully explained, “we said goodbye to our son and went home.”
The heartbreak didn’t end there. A few days later Megan woke up with more bleeding. Back in the emergency room, doctors determined she had a rare uterine malformation that, in Megan’s case, caused life-threatening massive bleeding. Over the next five hours, an interventional radiologist utilized arterial embolization in an attempt stabilize her. During that process she received 12 units of red blood cells, 6 units of plasma, and 2 units of platelets. When she woke up in the ICU, she received even more blood.
Since then, Megan and her husband have welcomed baby Genevieve into the world. “She certainly doesn’t replace Evan, but she brings fresh joy to our hearts,” Megan said. ” I would like to say to the people who donate blood thank you. I wouldn’t be alive and nor would Genevieve be there.”
Selisia Schwarz thought her doctor would tell her to get more sleep when she scheduled an appointment for decreased energy and bruises that appeared out of nowhere. After a simple appointment and blood draw she headed home, but received a phone call that changed her life. Selisia had Aplastic Anemia, or bone marrow failure. The doctor instructed her to go to the nearest ER. She did and didn’t leave for over two weeks.
During her hospital stay, Selisia received blood products every other day to make up for what her bone marrow wasn’t producing. That’s where she experienced the need for blood. “I still remember the day I went in needing a transfusion immediately, but I had to wait over three hours. They didn’t have my type and were trying to find some,” Selisia explained. “I just sat there scared and worried; what happens if they don’t find any? I can’t afford to wait until the next day or day after that.” Fortunately, they received a donation of her blood type and Selisia received her transfusion by late afternoon.
“One pint of whole blood can save up to three lives,” Selisia said. “One of those lives was mine.”
Sioux City, IA
Weighing in at 3 pounds 8 ounces, Elliott entered the world in April of 2010 with a condition called End Stage Renal Disease. He had virtually no kidney function. For three years Elliott underwent dialysis, also facing liver cancer and battling to become strong enough to be able to undergo a kidney transplant. In that short amount of time, he required 14 surgeries and received 16 separate blood transfusions to keep going and growing.
The day Elliott had been striving for arrived in 2013 when the long-awaited kidney transplant took place. Today, he’s healthy and by all means, a normal boy.
“He’s thriving. He’s doing amazing,” says Elliott’s mom Rachel. “He’s on his upward way in life and if it wasn’t for those transfusions, he would definitely have a different outcome. He wouldn’t be with us today.”
Mikayla Rietgraf was diagnosed with stage lV Ewings Sarcoma cancer when she was just 8 years old. The cancer was primarily located in her hip and the family received devastating news that it was inoperable. At the time of her diagnosis, Mikayla had a 20% survival rate. She underwent chemotherapy treatments for one year, spending over 80 days in the hospital. Following each treatment, Mikayla received units of blood and platelets which helped her to survive. Today, Mikalya is in remission thanks to many generous blood donors who selflessly gave of themselves to help others in need.
In 2013 Justin was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Strong chemotherapy wiped out his white blood cell and hemoglobin counts. He credited a blood transfusion with putting him back on his feet. “That was very important, don’t get me wrong, but I wish that was all I needed the service of donors for,” Justin said.
The cancer had spread. A tumor the size of two fists had fused to his spine and aorta. During surgery the tumor was chipped away bit by bit. Justin lost a considerable amount of blood. Seven units of blood were immediately transfused to save his life. The surgeon, who performs 150 of the same procedure every year, would later tell Justin’s parents that was the second worst case he’d ever seen.
“I know if I wouldn’t have gotten the donation that I did during my surgery, I wouldn’t have been able to survive,” Justin said. “I just married my beautiful wife last year. We adopted a cute little puppy dog together. I know none of this would have been possible had I not had the charities of some very generous people.”
At the tender age of two, Mason was diagnosed with two rare, life-threatening diseases that affect one in one million males.
During Mason’s battle he received a total of four lifesaving blood transfusions and a lifesaving bone marrow transplant to help him overcome the diseases.
Today, Mason is healthy and enjoys eating pizza and cereal, is obsessed with reptiles and could color or play with his dogs all day. Mason’s mom Tiffany also mentions that Mason likes to pick on his older brother!
“Blood donation has played an important part of saving our son’s life,” said Tiffany. “We have been faced with a lot of unknowns through our journey with Mason’s diseases, but one constant was that when we needed blood, we had access to it, because of generous blood donors. Now, that we use plasma-protein therapies on a monthly basis for Mason’s immune system, it is reassuring that LifeServe Blood Center does such a wonderful job making sure blood products available. Thank you, blood donors, for saving my son’s life!”
Lt. Col. Jerry Self
In 2008, Lt. Col. Jerry Self thought he had come down with the flu. After finding himself unable to get out of bed for three days, he visited his doctor and learned the shocking truth: Jerry had leukemia.
Five grueling rounds of chemo took its toll on Jerry, but it was the lifesaving blood transfusions that helped him stay strong so he could keep fighting the devastating disease.
“The chemotherapy for me was very taxing. I had a lot of weight loss, lost all my hair, was very tired, and had a lot of side effects associated with the chemo.”
During his battle toward health, Jerry received more than 40 units of blood, and felt healthier and more energized after each transfusion. Thanks to generous blood donors, today Jerry is cancer free, and is able to spend time doing what he loves best: spending time with his family.
Carson was an energetic 8-year-old nearing the end of the second grade when he found a bump under his chin. After multiple trips to the pediatrician, several examinations, antibiotics, and blood tests, Carson was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
During his fight, Carson received multiple chemotherapy and radiation treatments and several blood and platelet transfusions to help replenish his system so he could continue his fight. Today, Carson is in remission and doing extremely well thanks to the treatment and lifesaving blood transfusions he received.