Soldier's canine pal inspires blood drive
March 28, 2012
WIESBADEN, Germany - Every dog has its day, and Holly-Eva's was the day she miraculously recovered from surgery complications that left her with a 10 percent chance of survival.
1st Sgt. Clark Kuhling, her master, had frantically searched for the human plasma Holly-Eva's veterinarian said she needed to live, but regulations concerned with the scarcity of human blood made it impossible.
She pulled through anyway, and Kuhling was so thankful he vowed to hold a blood drive in her honor.
First, however, Kuhling had to deploy to Afghanistan. As soon as he returned in January, he began organizing the blood drive, and March 9, with help from the Red Cross and the 1st Military Intelligence Battalion, he held the event at the Tony Bass Fitness Center.
The drive raised 109 units of blood that can each be used to help three times as many people, said Nancy Colburn, Wiesbaden's Red Cross station manager. "It was the best drive in five years," she said.
The story behind the drive started a year and a half ago, when Holly-Eva's knees blew out and she needed implants to replace her anterior cruciate ligaments, Kuhling said. The ligaments, which humans also have, are commonly called "ACLs."
Holly-Eva, a 5-year-old boxer, underwent surgery, and one of the implants took with no problem, but the second one developed complications, Kuhling said.
Eventually, Holly-Eva's liver began to fail, and she received a transfusion of dog blood, Kuhling said. Sadly, her health continued to decline even after the transfusion.
The veterinarian said the only substance likely to save her would be concentrated human plasma, Kuhling said.
The plasma was not available through the German system, so Kuhling contacted officials at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center to see if they might be able to help him.
The officials at Landstuhl were concerned and wanted to help, but could not because regulations say the only dogs that can receive human blood are military working dogs, Kuhling said. Since Holly-Eva was not a working dog, she could not receive the blood.
"They wanted to help," Kuhling said, "but they couldn't."
A couple of hours later, however, the veterinarian called and said Holly-Eva was recovering, Kuhling said. "We got very lucky," he said.
Holly-Eva had only a 10 percent chance of surviving her ailments, Kuhling said, but she made it.
Kuhling was so thankful, and also so suddenly aware of the scarcity of human blood available for medical purposes, he decided a blood drive was in order.
He would have held it right away, Kuhling said, but he had to deploy to Afghanistan first. His mother, Betty Peterson, took care of Holly-Eva while he was away.
Kuhling returned to Wiesbaden in January, and began organizing the blood drive as soon as he returned. On the day of the drive, his brother Kurt Peterson, who is a nurse in Landstuhl's critical care unit, and his mother, took pictures of everyone who donated blood with Holly-Eva. They also gave out T-shirts with Holly-Eva's picture.
Holly-Eva, who was wearing a sweater that said "Be a Hero Save a Life" that Betty Peterson knitted for her, calmly sat still for the pictures. She napped in between visitors.
Spc. Jeffrey Cameron was among those who donated blood. "I like to give blood to help out the community," he said. "I think everyone should give blood. It helps out a lot."
Spc. Brian Kogut also said he wanted to help out the community by donating blood. "We're all kind of a family, so I wanted to help anyone who could use it," he said.
According to the Armed Services Blood Program, which provides blood for military members and their families, there are three main reasons to give blood regularly.
First of all, there is no substitute for human blood. Secondly, medical personnel make advances in life-saving techniques every day, and many of them require blood or blood products. And thirdly, blood products cannot be stored indefinitely.
A single trauma victim can require as many as 40 units of blood, and one pint can keep a premature infant alive for two weeks, according to the ASBP.
A single donation of blood can save three lives, according to the ASBP.
People can give blood every three weeks, according to the ASBP.
To give blood on post, the main requirements are that people must be at least 17 years old, have not deployed in the past year and have not lived in Europe for more than five years, said Capt. David Ogura of the 1st Military Intelligence Battalion, who helped organize the drive. There are other possible disqualifying elements, but those are the main ones.
To learn more about donating blood, visit www.militaryblood.dod.mil.