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From Blood Recipient to OneBlood Employee: Alexander's Story

Alondra Montelongo 
August 10, 2021

At the age of 3, Alexander was diagnosed with Hypogammaglobulinemia with failure to thrive.

This condition prevents his body from producing antibodies on its own, which means Alex relies on infusions of Intravenous Immunoglobulins (IVIG) to prevent him from getting sick.

As the self-proclaimed “blood recipient poster boy” at his high school, Alexander would recruit many students to donate blood, which led to him getting a scholarship from Community Blood Banks.

Alexander is now a mission hero at OneBlood performing lifesaving work in the reference labs.

We caught up with him to discuss his journey at OneBlood and his experience with receiving blood transfusions.

Alexander, OneBlood reference lab team member and blood recipient

Tell us about your career at OneBlood

I have been working at OneBlood since April 2018. I started as a lab assistant in the Reference Lab and moved up to Lab Assistant II when the position was created.

I then attended OneBlood’s BBT (Blood Bank Technology) Program while working to obtain my licensure in Immunohematology and Blood Banking.

I receive orders sent by hospitals finding blood that is compatible with their patients. I frequently get orders for sickle cell patients, cancer patients, surgery patients, and emergencies.

Patient tubes are sent over to my lab and I have to determine what blood this patient can and cannot be given, and then supply the facility with that kind of blood.

What was your biggest reason for wanting to work at OneBlood?

From being in hospitals or at home with my nurse on the other end of a needle, I have always been interested in healthcare and blood.

I love science and was excited to see that OneBlood also had a program to educate and grow potential scientists within the company.

What was the transfusion process like for you?

The product I used to receive was IVIG. This came in a large glass bottle hooked through an IV machine into my vein.

I used to have a medical port in my chest, where the nurse would stick me with the needle throughout the ages of 3-15 years old.

From the ages of 15-24, I have received needle sticks in my arms. IVIG is derived from pools of plasma donations and contains many antibodies given to me since I did not produce enough myself.

The first time I looked up how IVIG was made, I saw the number of donations required to make just one dose and it was mind-boggling.

What have you learned from living with Hypogammaglobulinemia?

One thing it helped me realize is as a kid who is sick, it is just normal life for them. I thought everybody got their 6-hour infusion on Sunday just like me. I knew no different. I knew my parents would give me Beanie Babies or cards during my infusion, it was no big deal!

Growing up is when I learned that this is a medical thing assigned to myself and few others, that’s when it became a responsibility to make sure I stay healthy by working out, making good decisions, and washing my hands.

What words of advice would you give to someone who is going through a similar medical or health challenge?

I love the quote by Winston Churchill, ‘’If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

Many times I have felt like I was in impending danger, but you must stay mentally strong and just get through it. If the wolves are chasing you, don’t stop running.

Alexander and his family dressed up for Christmas

What message would you like to share with people about the importance of donating blood?

Donating blood is essential. Several good things can come of it for so many people. It helps keep people alive. There is no way of manufacturing blood without a person.

Cancer patients need blood because chemotherapy brings their levels down. Sickle cell patients need them because their red cells don’t function correctly which causes various issues.

I never knew how many people were affected by ailments until I started working here.

Science is extremely advanced with what we can do with blood, and it keeps expanding more and more every year. 

Alexander’s story is living proof of the crucial need for blood donations. Be a part of the mission to save lives. Find a Big Red Bus or OneBlood Donor Center near you.

Alondra Montelongo, Digital Marketing Analyst and Author

Alondra Montelongo 

As a Digital Marketing Specialist at OneBlood, Alondra Montelongo is responsible for staying on top of the latest #socialtrends in the digital sphere and crafting messaging that inspires others to save lives.

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