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Every nine minutes, a life is lost to blood cancer, so Nurse of the Week Heidi Gould didn’t take it lightly when she received a request for another special blood donation. Gould was busy treating COVID patients in the ICU at Memorial Medical Center in Springfield, Illinois, but she readily made time to help. 

In 2018, Heidi had donated peripheral blood stem cells after being matched with a 72-year-old patient with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. “If that was your family member,” she says, “you would want someone out there to be a match for them.” This April, his cancer returned, and doctors needed more blood from their patient’s matching donor. Gould had nearly reached her maximum limit for donations, but happily, she still had enough blood to spare. This time, she said, “I went and donated just my white blood cells”.

When she donated peripheral blood stem cells two years ago, Heidi first had to receive a daily injection (shot) of Filgrastim, a drug that causes the bone marrow to make and release additional stem cells into the blood. After finishing the series of shots, her blood was removed through a catheter, then cycled through a machine that separates the stem cells from the other blood cells. The process, which is called apheresis, is an outpatient procedure that takes 2 to 4 hours. As Gould describes it, “You have one IV in one arm and it takes the blood out and filters it, and you have an IV in the other arm and it just puts it back in what they don’t need.” Often the process needs to be repeated daily for a few days, until enough stem cells have been collected.

Gould was just happy that she could help preserve a life. “There’s nothing like saving a life. You being the only person that is able to help this person—you can’t put a price on that.”

To see the full story on Heidi Gould, see the video segment on Illinois’ Fox 55 news broadcast.

Koren Thomas
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