Donor becomes recipient after diagnosis
By Angie Landsverk
Lisa Gerrits has been on both the giving and receiving end of blood donations.
“Up until July of 2014, I was a blood donor. I was two pints short of 12 gallons,” she said.
After she was diagnosed with colon cancer in July 2014, Gerrits was no longer able to donate blood.
“I’ve been on the receiving end of it now with some red blood cell transfusions,” she said.
While she cannot donate blood, Gerrits encourages others to do so.
The Community Blood Center will hold a blood drive in her honor.
The Lisa Gerrits Benefit Blood Drive is taking place from 9 a.m. to noon Friday, July 20, at the ThedaCare at Home office, in Waupaca.
The office is located at 950 Park Ave., in the former Riverside Elementary School building.
The center says that during the summer, the blood supply is critical and difficult to keep steady for local hospitals.
As a result, it is especially important to get donors during this time.
“As many people as we can get would be spectacular,” Gerrits said.
She plans to stop by for part of the blood drive.
The ThedaCare Family of Foundations is providing the snacks and water for the blood drive.
It supports hospice patients and their families and funds a program called Hopes & Dreams.
The generosity of donors makes dreams like the one Gerrits has become a reality.
Those interested in supporting such projects or learning more about how their gifts can make a difference, may contact ThedaCare Family of Foundations at 920-738-6503, or visit www.thedacare.org/foundations.
Gerrits, 53, has been a hospice patient for about two months.
Over the past four years, she had three rounds of chemotherapy, with 12 treatments in each of those rounds.
In 2015, she had surgery to remove part of her colon, part of her liver and a lymph node.
She has three large tumors on her liver, as well as some smaller ones.
Her current bilirubin level means she is unable to have treatment right now.
Gerrits is unable to work and says she tries to stay positive.
When she was diagnosed with colon cancer, doctors gave her six months to two years.
“Now it’s been four years,” she said.
In 2014, Gerrits was 49 and at an appointment for her annual exam.
She was prepared to ask her doctor about getting a colonscopy after she turned 50.
During the exam, she told her doctor she was having some abdominal pain.
Blood tests were done.
After those tests showed nothing, a CT scan was ordered.
It showed a mass in her colon.
A biopsy followed and then the cancer diagnosis.
Up until that time, Gerrits was a blood donor.
She started donating blood when she was about 25 years old.
“My daughter had to go to the doctor for a high fever,” she said. “She got poked with a needle and was not happy.”
Gerrits told her young daughter that the next time there was a blood drive, “I will let them stick a needle in my arm, and you can go along.”
She continued donating blood after that, seeing it as a simple thing she could do.
Gerrits also recruited her father to become a blood donor.
While she can no longer donate blood, she said, “If I can get people to donate on my behalf, that would be wonderful.”
Donating blood does not hurt and involves about an hour of time, she said.
The ThedaCare at Home Hospice Care Team said Gerrits is a person many of them ascribe to be as her meaning and purpose come from her ability to serve others.
As Gerrits entered hospice, it appeared to her that this ability and capacity to care for others might be threatened, they said.
“As she described the importance of donating blood to others and the lives saved to the hospice team, her eyes sparkled with a delight that transcended her own circumstances. While illness can erode many things, for hospice our mission is that what gives meaning and purpose to a person’s life is the focus,” the team said. “Lisa said that when she drove past the blood center for her own medical care, it was all she could do not to cry because she could no longer donate. Lisa’s selfless concern for others gave birth to this blood drive. Her continued desire to serve others inspired the hospice team to support her mission and purpose.”
Gerrits is a few pints shy of her 12-gallon mark, and the hospice team is confident they can get her there.
However, her main motivation for wanting to hold the blood drive is the knowledge that every donation saves three lives.
“Lisa is a lifesaver, and we are blessed to share the journey of life with her,” they said.