Most blood donors measure their contribution in pints, but Jennifer Robertson has given gallons.
As a Mercy nurse for 15 years, Robertson has seen firsthand how blood saves lives. She’s worked in all areas, from trauma surgery to inpatient floors and now urgent care. While she’s been a blood donor since high school, it was a personal experience that showed her the importance of giving regularly.
In 2009, her mother, Cathy Bird, was diagnosed with a type of cancer called multiple myeloma. Cancer cells were accumulating in her bone marrow, crowding out her healthy blood cells. Bird went through chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant, and eventually went into remission. “Still, she often experienced low red blood cell and platelet counts,” Robertson said. “Many times after having blood work, her doctor’s office would call her to tell her to be transfused as soon as possible because her platelet count was critically low. It left her with no energy to do the things she loved.”
But the turnaround in Bird’s energy level was evident the minute she got the gift of blood. “Those donations allowed her to enjoy things like planting a full vegetable garden only three months after finishing chemo,” Robertson remembered. “Her rose beds were beautiful, her flower pots were full of annuals and she had fresh homegrown produce on the table.”
Unfortunately, Bird’s cancer returned after 18 months. Even then, continued blood transfusions kept her energy level up and improved her quality of life. “Just a few months after the cancer’s return, she planned a move from her hometown of Stockton to Nixa to be closer to me,” Robertson said. “Transfusions gave her the strength to pack up, find a place to live, decorate and spend time with me. Those three months we had living nearby to each other are so precious to me.”
Finally, Bird determined her fight against cancer was finished. “Mom was asked if she wanted a final transfusion,” Robertson said. “She said yes, and it gave her the energy to feel well enough for company and say her goodbyes. Blood bought her that time.”
Now, more than three years after her mother’s death, Robertson still gives blood every eight weeks. “I know the difference it makes for our patients and people like my mother,” she said. “Without donors, I feel I would’ve lost my mother a lot sooner. The generosity touches so many people, and knowing I’m a part of that keeps me going back to give. I hope others will join me.”