Many of you are receiving this because you’re a friend of Stephanie and the Grants and have asked how you can help. Still more of you have been forwarded this link by a friend who cares for Steph, though you might not know her directly. This is a testament to how many people she has reached!
Stephanie is a vibrant, athletic force of nature. She deftly balances her family life, her work life, and her care for others. You could hardly hope to meet a more dedicated mom or supportive friend. Over the past few weeks, some complex health issues have intersected to create a serious medical situation for Steph. She is currently hospitalized and needs consistent provision of blood. All of this is unfolding against the backdrop of twin crises: a record number of hospitalizations due to the omicron variant, and a nationwide critical blood shortage.
Time and again, when people have reached out asking how they can help, Stephanie has answered “please ask them to donate blood.”
In response to Steph’s call, we are launching this virtual campaign: Sleeves Up for Steph. A virtual campaign has a few advantages over a traditional bloodmobile-based drive. First, it allows us to include people who want to support Stephanie but are not in Nashville. Second, it allows us to mobilize immediately. Third, it provides a digital home base where she can see all of you showing up for her!
Choosing to pledge or donate at this time helps Steph in the following ways:
– An influx of donations, no matter what type, helps to alleviate the blood crisis. More donations in the system is a net positive for your community, no matter where you are. As this journey has shown us, you never know who will need blood next.
– At present, blood for Stephanie is being procured through the Red Cross, and must match for her across a few complicated factors. More blood in the bank increases the likelihood that some is a match for her. Decreasing strain on the system is good for her as well as for everyone else.
Additionally, please know that there’s no requirement to donate through the Red Cross specifically if that is not your closest option. All major hospitals pull from shared networks.
If you’re not able to donate at this time, there is also an ongoing need for volunteers.
And one request from the family: Stephanie and Allen are beautifully managing related discussions with their children and are in charge of that space. Thanks for ensuring that this all remains at the level of adult conversation.
If you have a question that can’t be answered through the Red Cross website, please reach out to Jessie Adams ([email protected]) and Lauren Wachsman ([email protected]).
On behalf of Stephanie and her family, thank you for stepping up and showing care during this time. Let’s work together and roll our Sleeves Up for Steph!
Today is March 23rd, which officially marks two months since I was admitted to the ER and began this journey. My first update in February gave an overview of life in the hospital, this update will give an update since my discharge. Immediately upon discharge I began the schedule of three times a week blood transfusions (up to three units a session, which equates to a 6-7hr day, and up to nine units of blood a week), two times a week doctor visits, and once a month chemotherapy. After being bedridden for 17 days in the hospital, and with the amount of fluid I had taken on in the hospital, my mobility was very limited and I’ve had to rely heavily on my parents and husband to get me to / from appointments and care for me around the house. I have had to get comfortable being in a wheelchair, and spending more time horizontal than vertical, which if you know me is very much the opposite of how I lived life previously. Through all of this, the unconditional love that was shown to me during this period is unmatched, and while it was emotionally, mentally, and physically draining to be so dependent on others for basic daily needs, I am truly blessed to have such a strong village of caregivers. I am lucky.
For the month of February and into the first week of March I continued to see drastic dips in my hemoglobin levels between transfusion appointments, which made each treatment day unpredictable and made us all feel like we were on a “rollercoaster” – you never knew when you were going to get a good day or a bad day. Bad days would result in multiple blood units transfused, and laying in bed due to severe limitations in mobility. But, on good days we would celebrate with a drive around town with the windows down – it’s the little things.
I had my second round of chemotherapy on March 3rd and I started a new, more aggressive medication on March 7th. I am really happy to share that recently we have seen a slowdown in the destruction of my red blood cells, signifying that some of the treatment plan seems to be working at calming my immune system and therefore slowing the anemia. This has allowed for significantly less blood transfusions, increased mobility on my end (I have been able to walk independent of my wheelchair for two weeks now), and overall just a more positive outlook and disposition. We are still doing three times a week blood transfusion check-ins, plus twice a week doctor visits and treatment, so weeks and days are still full. But, current trends have us cautiously optimistic and hopeful for the coming weeks.
We continue to be in awe of the support we are receiving through meals, childcare, notes/texts, and blood donations (over 315 people have committed to donate blood !!). The blood donations particularly stand out, as I would not have been able to make it two months without the transfusions – I have received just shy of 100 units of red blood over the last two months. It is not lost on me just how many people had to make a commitment to donate in order to make my life possible, most of whom were complete strangers who donated before any of us even knew I had a need, but each of you that has donated since is now either helping save my life and/or paying it forward and saving someone else’s. I am truly humbled to have such a strong village of support; each of you is a part of my “why” to keep fighting.
In January 2022, I began experiencing what I thought were just inconvenient Covid side effects. I was exhausted easily and had trouble moving around the house, plus my heart rate was incredibly high from basic activities. Every night I went to sleep I hoped that the morning would bring relief. I truly thought it would “just take a few days,” I am a working mom, and I didn’t have time to completely press the “pause” button on life. Then, on Sunday, January 23rd everything changed. I woke up and collapsed in our bedroom. Fortunately my husband was there in an instant and immediately on the phone with doctors, he called an ambulance and we went to the hospital.
As soon as I arrived at the hospital all the testing began, my red blood cell count was the lowest my doctor had seen in an actually coherent person (anyone who knows me will not be surprised by this given my stubborn “I’ve got this” personality). I was admitted to ICU: picc lines were inserted, blood transfusions began, bone marrow biopsies occurred, CT scans, EKG’s, test after test after test, all during a constant need for more red blood. The first week in the hospital was very much like this, every day more tests, every day more blood. The ultimate diagnosis was hemolytic anemia, complicated by my already present autoimmune issue of idiopathic thrombocytopenia and the development of blood clots in my legs and lungs, likely due to Covid. The second week was more stabilizing, and we began a treatment plan focused at long-term correction of the anemia consisting of some known chemotherapy approaches, all the while continuing with daily blood transfusions. To complicate things, my O+ blood type has some unique antibodies that make screening the blood before transfusion take more time, and therefore we are constantly asking the doctors if there is a unit of blood ready for me if I need it. Often they do, however sometimes they have to wait for blood to arrive from other counties, during which my red blood levels are very low.
Week three I got to come home, and hug my kids for the first time in weeks, a blessing beyond measure. Coming home means daily doctor visits and continued outpatient blood transfusions and treatments. It also likely means further delays in securing blood for transfusion, as it may take longer to secure and screen the blood in the outpatient setting. Blood donation is actively saving my life, and I’m tremendously appreciative of those in the community who’ve donated the blood that’s keeping me safe. While we wait for other treatments to hopefully resolve the anemia I am continuing to use up to 7 units of blood a week, potentially more. Each of you pledging to donate blood of any blood type is a hero, and one that I am incredibly thankful for. Even if it doesn’t go to me it goes to someone else fighting for more time, and who can use your help. Thank you for being a part of this campaign and for showing so much support, it truly is life changing, for me and so many others.
This QR code links directly to the campaign page and is simply another way to share and spread the word.
Welcome, everyone, to Sleeves Up for Steph! We’re so excited to see people sharing the campaign and pledging to donate in Stephanie’s honor. When you do go to your donation appointment, feel free to take a photo and share it. Stephanie has indicated that she’s ok with social media posts and using the hashtag.
Feel free to share the link and information with anyone you think might be interested. Anyone, in any location, with any blood type, can donate in honor of Stephanie.