Bone Allograft Recipient Finds Relief from Pain  |  September 18, 2014

Susan and HelenaSusan has been many things in her life: an acrobat, a hairdresser, a skier and a high-diver. One thing she never expected to add to the list was bone allograft recipient.

She tried to manage excruciating back pain for two years before undergoing a transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion procedure. She was hesitant to have surgery because she was taking care of her parents and keeping up with her steady stream of hairdressing clients.

I was miserable for a long time,” she said. “The thought of back surgery was not even comprehensible to me until I had exhausted all of my options. It was clear that I needed surgery.”

When Susan’s doctor explained that he was going to use a bone allograft in the procedure, she was surprised.

I understood organ donation, but wasn’t familiar with tissue donation,” said Susan. “It was awesome to learn more about it and I felt it was a blessing for me.”

After surgery, Susan faced a long recovery period. For a woman used to taking long walks with her dog and spending hours on her feet cutting hair, the inactivity proved difficult.

My activity level dropped drastically while I recovered. Convalescing was the hardest thing for me. Even though your body can’t be active, your mind still wants to be.”

Before her surgery, Susan would drive to her favorite park and sit on a bench with her dog because they couldn’t enjoy their usual walk. After physical therapy and time to heal, Susan and her dog have resumed their cherished time walking in the park.

I’m very grateful for the tissue donation,” she said. “I will always remember the act of kindness and generosity that helped me heal.”

AlloSource Signs Space Act Agreement with NASA and Jet Propulsion Laboratory  |  September 17, 2014

AlloSource, one of the nation’s largest providers of skin, bone and soft tissue allografts for use in surgical procedures, and the world’s largest processor of cellular bone allografts, signed a Space Act Agreement with National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to collaborate on microbial research. AlloSource will leverage technologies developed by NASA/JPL for assembly and launch operations of various Mars missions — specifically, rapid molecular microbial burden measurement and genetic inventory cataloging — to advance microbial research in tissue processing.

Read more about this unique collaboration here.

Education Grant Recipient Raises Awareness about Uncommon Type of Burn  |  September 15, 2014

In 2013, AlloSource began a 10-year partnership with the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors, pledging an annual financial contribution to fund their scholarship program. For more than 35 years, the Phoenix Society has worked with survivors, families, healthcare professionals and the fire industry to support recovery from burns, improve the quality of burn care and prevent burn injuries. Here is the story of a 2014 Education Grant Recipient.

1 - Anderson, Shelby - PhotoShelby never could have imagined that a day cooking at the beach would land her in the hospital with severe burns to her hands.

She and her family spent the day at Catalina Island making dinner for 150 people. Since they didn’t have a juicer, they hand-squeezed two large boxes of limes for the marinade. After several hours of work, Shelby took a break to enjoy the beach with her friends.

The next morning I woke up with my hands stinging, and in another 24 hours my hands were swollen,” she said.

Shelby and her family, like many, didn’t know the combination of citrus juice and sunlight can cause Phytophotodermatitis, a type of burn resulting from exposure to ultraviolet radiation and certain botanical substances.

Shelby’s hands worsened and were covered in tennis ball-sized blisters. Unfortunately, she was initially misdiagnosed and her burn was improperly treated.

After her misdiagnosis, Shelby’s family took her to the University of California, Irvine Burn Ward. She endured several painful procedures to clean her injury and then returned home to face her challenging recovery. Since she had to wear custom splints on her hands, Shelby was unable to do anything for herself for 10 days and relied on the help of her family.

Though her hands have healed, Shelby’s injury drives her to educate others on this rarely discussed type of burn. She returned to the place that helped her heal – University of California, Irvine, to pursue a degree in Medical Anthropology.

When I was in the hospital and feeling what it was like to be a patient, I realized that I wanted to help people who were in my situation,” she said. “I would like to work in the burn ward where I was treated to help burn victims obtain proper care, support and information during their healing process.”

Shelby says her burn experience is what inspired her intended career path.

By going through my burn and being in the hospital, I figured out what my true calling was,” said Shelby. “Even though I have always had a desire to help others, if I had not had this experience I would not have such a deep, personal understanding of what people are experiencing.”

Shelby commits much of her time and energy to raising awareness about this specific kind of burn. She hopes to use her degree to become a patient advocate.

I feel that my advocate’s support was just as influential in my healing as the physical care of the nurses and doctors. I would like to be that person for someone else and put my compassion into action.”

Nursing Student Back on her Feet after Tissue Transplant  |  September 11, 2014

While Madelyn was out on a nightly run, one wrong step changed her life in a big way. An uneven sidewalk hidden by a shadow caused her to step wrong and hyper-extend her leg, dislocate her knee and tear her anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments.

Doctors in the emergency room told her the damage was so severe they weren’t sure if she would be able to walk normally ever again.

Doctors told me I basically blew out my entire knee,” she said. “I was devastated. My doctors said I had a long road ahead of me.”

She endured two surgeries, several months apart, to repair her knee and doctors used donor tendons in both procedures to repair the damaged ligaments. Her intense recovery time included several months in a wheelchair and then adjusting to crutches.

Madelyn’s evening runs were just a piece of her active lifestyle. In addition to going to nursing school, she also worked at an animal hospital part-time and worked full-time at a dairy farm. Her jobs demanded lengthy time spent on her feet, and the injury made that difficult.

I was off work for three months, and I’m grateful that both of my employers let me ease back into work,” Madelyn said.

Though her injury and rehabilitation experience was not something she ever expected, Madelyn believes it will help her better connect with patients when she becomes a nurse.

Being able to put myself in a patient’s position will help me better understand their pain. People have also asked about my injury and healing time, so I’m able to share my story that way too.”

Madelyn emphasized how important it was for her to have a strong support system while she recovered from her injury.

I would like to thank my family and friends for all they’ve done for me since my accident. Without their support, my recovery would have been much more difficult.

She settled back into her busy routine and even started running again. Madelyn says she is more of an advocate for donation after seeing how much it improved her life.

When I was able to walk again after the first surgery, I thought about the donation a lot. It was very emotional – you never expect to need it, but then I was so grateful for it. I hope my story illustrates to others the importance of life and the ability to walk, and never taking either for granted.”

Grant Recipient Using Education to Research Burn Prevention and Support  |  September 9, 2014

In 2013, AlloSource began a 10-year partnership with the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors, pledging an annual financial contribution to fund their scholarship program. For more than 35 years, the Phoenix Society has worked with survivors, families, healthcare professionals and the fire industry to support recovery from burns, improve the quality of burn care and prevent burn injuries. Here is the story of a 2014 Education Grant Recipient.

2 - Bane, Marissa - Photo

Overcoming the adversity of a burn injury inspired Marissa to dedicate her education to supporting burn awareness and prevention around the world.

While I am thankful for the incredible burn center at UNC Hospitals that served me so well, I know that many other burn victims do not have access to similar treatment,” she said. “Having spent six summers volunteering abroad in Africa, Asia, South America and Europe, I have seen this reality firsthand.”

Marissa spends time working as a SOAR Mentor at UNC Hospitals, where she visits and builds relationships with current burn patients. After recovering from burns caused by a severe kitchen accident, she has shared their pain and uncertainties.

I have realized that a person’s health and healing go far deeper than just their condition or diagnosis, and that hope and support is critical,” Marissa said.

She spent the past summer volunteering with the burn unit at Kamuzu Central Hospital in Malawi. Marissa interviewed over 70 patients for her research into the challenges low-income countries face regarding burn prevention strategies.

Marissa’s pursuit of a degree in Health Policy and Management will help her expand her research on health disparities. She also hopes to facilitate relationships between advanced and developing burn clinics to help provide resources and training for clinics that need it.

Throughout my life, I have chosen to allow adversity to be a catalyst for personal growth instead of a force that defeats me. While being burned has brought unimaginable pain and countless other challenges, it has been a life-changing experience and I am a stronger, more compassionate person because of it.”