Catholic blood donors, recipient share spotlight at event

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Pictured from left to right are United Blood Services Executive Director Audrey Jennings, coordinator Simone Barthell, Fr. Hans Ruygt and coordinator Connie Gaudio (photo courtesy of United Blood Services)
United Blood Services Executive Director Audrey Jennings poses with St. Clare of Assisi community members Simone Barthell, Fr. Hans Ruygt, pastor, and Connie Gaudio. The organization recognized the parish’s blood drive coordination efforts. (photo courtesy of United Blood Services)

United Blood Services recognized a West Valley parish with a Hero Award and invited a blood recipient, who happens to be an East Valley Catholic, to speak at its annual event.

Arizona’s nonprofit blood provider bestowed a Hero Award to blood drive coordinators at St. Clare of Assisi Parish in Surprise, an honor reserved for two percent of coordinators. Connie Gaudio and Simone Barthell coordinate blood drive efforts at St. Clare.

The parish was among 27 Hero Award winners — 10 from the West Valley — who alone hosted 244 blood drives in 2015. Those efforts yielded 12,264 lifesaving blood donations for patients across Arizona.

All of the coordinators were honored at the annual Valentines for Life luncheon. More than 1,300 organizations hosted nearly 4,000 blood drives throughout the state last year. Because blood can be separated into components to benefit multiple patients, those donations saved more than 200,000 Arizona lives.

Some 228 blood drive coordinators reached milestones in recruiting blood donors last year. They were recognized at the event.

Marc and Amanda Missildine, who is alive today because of blood donors, poses with her Marc, after the birth of their first child last year. (courtesy photo)
Amanda Missildine, who is alive today because of blood donors, poses with her husband Marc, after the birth of their first child last year. (courtesy photo)

Honored guests heard from a Valley Catholic who is alive today because of 112 red blood cell, platelet and plasma transfusions. Amanda Missildine, now a young mother, was diagnosed with a rare genetic liver condition as a high school senior in 2005. When her liver completely shut down, doctors saved her life with an immediate transplant and blood transfusions.

“Blood donors gave me the gift of life,” Missildine said. “Their generosity will always be a part of who I am. As a matter of fact, they inspired me to become a nurse.”

Missildine and her husband, Marc, welcomed their first child last year. Following her story, Missildine met 11 of the blood donors who saved her life.

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