Family's Experience With Trauma Inspires Advocacy For Blood Donations; Need Great During Summer

Owens familyEverything was unfolding as planned for the Owens family during Memorial Day weekend in 2012, with a special birthday gathering and an enjoyable ride by Mark Owens on his all-terrain vehicle.

But life changed dramatically for him; his wife, Tracy; and their daughters when he later disappeared after saying he was heading to wash his ATV. His older daughter, Gena Owens, and her boyfriend found him under a bridge close to his house with his damaged ATV nearby. He suffered massive internal injuries from the waist up.

No one knows exactly what happened to Mark Owens that day, but one thing became clear after he was airlifted to Holston Valley Medical Center - he would need multiple units of blood for his lengthy recovery. That supply came from Marsh Regional Blood Center, which serves 16 medical facilities in the region.

As a result of Mark Owens' experience, Tracy Owens and Gena Owens have become major advocates for blood donation.

"Once this happened, I realized someone else's blood was making it possible for my husband to receive the medical attention he needed," Tracy Owens said. "Now, I spread the word and tell people that every day someone in the hospital needs blood. If you have a chance to donate, I encourage people to please try. It might seem scary at first, but it's definitely worth it for another person whose life may very well depend on it."

ATV accidents, which often occur during this time of year, are one of the leading causes of trauma cases in local hospitals. Trauma cases often require a large amount of blood to treat a patient and, in Owens' case, resulted in a nearly month-long stay at Holston Valley.

When her father had his accident, Gena Owens was 16 and not yet eligible to donate. But as soon as she met the age threshold of 17, she donated blood without telling anyone. Her mother later discovered Gena Owens' Marsh Regional T-shirt  and questioned her daughter about it.

"She said she did it because someone had donated blood for her father," Tracy Owens said. "I just thought that was the best thing."

Gena Owens said her father was the initial reason she planned to donate blood, but she became further motivated when a friend's father was injured in a car accident and required blood transfusions. Her donation convinced her she had made the right decision.

She has continued to donate and become passionate about the cause, recruiting others to give when a Marsh Regional bloodmobile is in the area. In May, she graduated from Haysi High School with an honor cord, which Marsh Regional gives to high school students who donate three times or help the blood center in other ways.

Now in college, Gena Owens took a medical terminology class and researched blood donation as part of a project. She learned how few people roll up their sleeves even though one donation can save as many as three lives.

"Blood donation is a random act of kindness, and random acts of kindness produce additional random acts of kindness," Gena Owens said. "I tell everybody they need to try blood donation. I've gotten two of my friends to donate."

Don Campbell, Marsh Regional's director, commends the Owens family for their staunch support of blood donation, saying it makes a palpable difference in people's lives. He said Tracy Owens' and Gena Owens' efforts are particularly helpful during summer when donations can decrease as people become involved in other activities.

"We were grateful to have a sufficient blood supply on hand when Mr. Owens suffered his injuries," Campbell said. "That was only possible because people who are eligible to donate participated in that noble exercise. The Owens family has seen the positive results of that interaction and is performing a great public service by informing people of the value of blood donation. We appreciate their community spirit."

To donate blood, individuals must be at least 17 years old, weigh 110 pounds or more and be in good health. People with a cold, sore throat, fever, flu or fever blisters or who are taking antibiotics may not donate. Donors should eat a balanced meal before giving blood.

In addition to scheduled blood drives, donors are welcome at Marsh Regional's collection centers: 111 W. Stone Drive, Suite 300, Kingsport, Tennessee, and 1996 W. State St., Bristol, Tennessee.

For more information, please call 423-408-7500, 423-652-0014 or 276-679-4669 or visit www.marshblood.com. Patients can also interact with Marsh Regional at www.facebook.com/MarshBlood;or www.twitter.com/Marsh_Blood.