Rachel Judd, Hamilton member of IDFNZ has taken up the IDFNZ Team Red challenge for the Waikato, BOP region, and is sharing her story.
When I joined New Zealand Blood Service as a Donor Relations Coordinator in the Waikato last month, it was the realisation of a long-held dream. “I spoke at an NZBS conference a few years ago and I really enjoyed the culture – everyone opened their arms to our family and we had a really, really good time,”. “In fact, I have a Facebook memory that pops up from that time that says I’m going to leave my job and join NZBS!” And so it's come to pass!
But my connection to New Zealand Blood Service stems from more of personal experience of having a son who relies on fractionated plasma products for his survival.
“My blood is funny.” These 4 simple words are still the way my 16yr old Brendan explains what is happening with his body. He has lived with acute Myelofibrosis, Thrombocytopenia, Pancytopenia, Neutropenia since he was eight months old and although there is a name for these symptoms, the root cause of his illness is still undiagnosed.
Brendan’s immunity is compromised, his bone marrow is degrading, and under a microscope it looks like a bite has been taken out of his blood cells, instead of the cells having their regular donut shape. He suffered years of admissions into hospital due to infections and other illnesses we take for granted, that our immune systems will fight until, at three years old, he started treatments derived from blood plasma donated to the New Zealand blood service. These have been keeping Brendan healthy and able to live normally. He hasn’t had an admission to hospital since he started the immunoglobulin. The treatment continues to be a game-changer for Brendan, who is still a football-mad teen. “He administers it every seven days and was one of the first people to begin using a plasma-based product over a long period, rather than just as a one-off, Seeing the difference it makes in our lives is just incredible.” So it’s not hard to understand why I’m passionate about recruiting new donors when it comes to work. “It is literally donors that keep him alive,”. “Plus, what mum doesn’t want to talk about their kids! I can’t think of anything more rewarding than telling people they’re making a difference in our lives.”
“I thought it would be easy to recruit donors, but it’s actually quite hard! People say they don’t have time, and it’s challenging to get them past the barriers and into the donor centre.” Still, I’m determined to use my family’s story to encourage people to donate. I have also teamed up with Elizabeth Murchison a fellow IDNFZ member & Donor Relations Co-Ordinator in the Southern Team. A few months ago Elizabeth created a Team Red Challenge for IDFNZ members to join, I would to love to see more families and members joining. In 2024
Elizabeth & I have some very cool ideas and are hoping some of the IDFNZ families become more involved in the New Zealand Blood Service, whether this be via donating or by coming into our donor centres and meeting the donors who are making a difference in their lives. It truly is an amazing feeling!
And as for Brendan… His condition hasn’t changed and he’s still undiagnosed, in fact the specialists have said they might have to call it Brendan Judd disease if they can’t find anything. He is way taller and certainly cheekier. He is hoping to start a building apprenticeship in the New Year. He still plays soccer, is Manchester United mad and has the world’s supply of football shirts, he goes to the gym with his mates, and has a girlfriend. “He’s living a normal, full life - thanks to donors.”
With world Immunology Day in April next year, I am looking for families in the Waikato who would love to come in meet donors and tour our new purpose-built donor centre here in Hamilton, and families in the BOP who may be interested in attending the opening of our Tauranga Donor Centre in March 2024. If this interests, you please email me Rachel.email@example.com
View Brendans story here