|City of Hope’s bloodmobile is on the road thanks to generous donors|
Blood is a particularly precious commodity for cancer patients in treatment and recovery. As City of Hope helps more people battle back from the disease, the organization must find new ways to meet patients’ need for donated blood.
A new City of Hope bloodmobile is helping.
The 40-foot mobile blood donation facility made its debut in March 2011, thanks to a $300,000 contribution from longtime City of Hope supporter Jerry Fine of Beverly Hills, Calif.
For him, the gift stemmed from deep, personal motivation: While in treatment at City of Hope, his late wife, Susan Fine, became dependent on transfusions of donated blood for both red cells and platelets.
Jerry and Susan Fine had met in 1982 and soon fell in love, marrying within a year. Jerry Fine found success in business, while Susan Fine earned a master’s degree and set up practice as a licensed clinical social worker. Together they traveled the world and raised a son, Joshua.
The family was thrown into tumult in 2004 when doctors diagnosed Susan Fine with chronic lymphoblastic leukemia. The disease grew aggressive, and she sought help from City of Hope.
Chemotherapy beginning in 2007 pushed her disease into remission, but she would later face a rare type of recurrence.
Caregivers found it difficult to locate an appropriate source of donated blood for her complicated case. The predicament motivated the Fines to organize a blood drive for City of Hope in December 2008, and it gave them a window into the challenges many patients face.
“Our experiences made us finely attuned to what patients go through when they rely on regular transfusions,” Jerry Fine said. “Supporting the bloodmobile seemed like the perfect way to address the problem.”
Gay Almquist, director of the Donor Apheresis Center, said the Fines’ contribution was invaluable to their collection efforts.
“The bloodmobile would not have been up and running this year if not for the generosity of the Fines,” Almquist said. “They have gone above and beyond in their support of the blood donor center.”
The bloodmobile, which has five beds for collection and two areas for screening, will make possible more off-site drives, according to Almquist.
“In the past, a business or organization interested in holding a drive would need at least a thousand square feet for us to set up beds, equipment and staff,” Almquist said. “Since the bloodmobile is self-contained, we can simply drive to the site and handle all the donations in our bus.”
Almquist estimated the bloodmobile will boost off-site blood donations by 20 percent over the next two years.
“And the more that we are able to collect ourselves, the less we will need to buy from elsewhere,” Almquist said.
In 2009, Susan Fine lost her battle with cancer, but her generous spirit and the kindness of City of Hope’s medical team inspired Jerry Fine to turn the loss into a way to help other patients.
“We had always planned on providing for City of Hope through our estate, but as her disease advanced, she encouraged me to give even sooner,” said Fine. “That was Susan’s nature — always seeking to help others.”
For members of the Bragg family and their employees, a blood drive holds personal meaning.
Cameron Bragg did it in honor of his late grandfather — and to benefit City of Hope patients like him.
With a tourniquet around his arm, the young man reclined in one of five beds in City of Hope’s new bloodmobile while a technician began collecting his blood.
This was not Bragg’s first blood donation, and unlikely to be his last.
“I knew how crucial donated blood was for my grandfather when he was going through chemotherapy. So why wouldn’t I help somebody else?” he said. “It’s just the right thing to do, basically.”
He was one of dozens of Bragg Companies employees who participated in a blood drive at the organization’s Long Beach, Calif., facility.
George Bragg, Cameron Bragg’s grandfather and the crane company’s former president, received treatment for leukemia at City of Hope before his death in 2009. Grateful for his care and determined to help others in need of donated blood, employees at the Bragg Companies rallied to raise funds for City of Hope’s new bloodmobile.
In 2009, the company turned its annual golf tournament into a charity event to commemorate their former president and contributed $35,000 toward the vehicle.
“The Bragg family’s support was essential to expanding our mobile blood collection program,” said Shirong Wang, M.D., M.P.H., chief of the Division of Transfusion Medicine.
Employees were thrilled to see their efforts come to fruition. The 2011 blood drive, one of two the company holds each year, took place on what would have been George Bragg’s 70th birthday.
Family members praised the generosity of their staff and friends.
“I think a lot of that is because of the type of person my dad was,” said Suzanne Bragg-Coffin, Bragg Companies vice president. “Everybody loved him.”
Joseph P. Sanford, a longtime family friend and member emeritus of City of Hope’s board of directors, visited the blood drive to congratulate Marilynn Bragg, George Bragg’s widow and president of the Bragg Companies, and her family.
“I consider myself very fortunate to have known George Bragg. He was one of a kind, and as well as I knew him, I can say that he is very proud of his family’s efforts on behalf of so many people,” he said.