Family together because volunteers donated blood

PO’IPU – Few men could even fathom the range of emotions that Patrick Bruno of Lihu’e endured last year, being told by medical professionals on two separate occasions that his wife was going to die.

Robin Bruno was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease eight years ago, which has meant two to three trips to the hospital each year since then, a teary-eyed Patrick Bruno explained to a teary-eyed crowd at the Hyatt Regency Kauai Resort & Spa here at the Blood Bank of Hawaii Kaua’i donor recognition luncheon last week.

Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease.

Last summer, after doctors at Wilcox Memorial Hospital felt they could do nothing more for Robin Bruno, then sent her to Straub Clinic & Hospital, where doctors were unable to locate the source of her internal bleeding.

“It was very dire, to say the least,” Patrick Bruno said, recalling on one night how a Straub doctor told him his wife would “bleed out,” die, and there was little they could do to prevent it.

But they kept giving her blood.

The Bruno family spent that night reflecting on life and friends, Patrick Bruno recalled. Then, Robin Bruno improved to the point where emergency surgery could be attempted, to give her a shot at life.

More blood was needed.

During the four hours of surgery, Robin Bruno required 30 units (pints) of blood, and during that procedure a nurse told Patrick Bruno that things did not look good for his wife.

But she pulled through, and the Brunos took the stage Friday to personally thank the room full of blood donors they don’t even know for their “selfless” gifts.

“It’s just an incredible, incredible gift that all of you people have given to us,” said Patrick Bruno, thanking the crowd for giving blood that allowed him to keep his wife and best friend, and the mother of his daughter.

“Because of your selfless generosity, Robin has her life, I have my best friend, and our daughter has her mom. Over 100 people are living inside Robin,” he said of the blood from anonymous donors.

“Your selflessness has given me my life,” Robin Bruno said. “The selflessness of the situation blows me away every day.”

“Six months ago, we were on the verge of despair,” Patrick Bruno said. “We consider Kaua’i blood donors our ‘ohana,” he said.

Volunteer blood donors in Hawai’i gave blood that the Blood Bank of Hawaii was able to turn into 98,000 components of blood last year, explained Stephanie Rosso, Blood Bank of Hawaii director of communications.

Donors gave “the gift of time with loved ones, another hug, another smile, a precious gift,” Rosso added.

Hokuanu Aki, who lost 70 percent of the blood in his body when a shark bit off part of his leg at Brennecke Beach last year, also expressed gratitude to donors.

“All I have to say is ‘thank you’ to all you guys who donated blood,” said Aki, who joked that “I might be related to you guys” in the room who are B or O blood types.

“Thanking you is about all we can do. You get a luncheon and not much else,” said Ron Wiley, the luncheon’s emcee and a member of the Kaua’i lifesavers committee.

Nohelani Cypriano performed songs for the audience, after telling stories about her mother, who lost her battle with cancer, and fellow “local diva” Loyal Garner, who also required many blood transfusions after learning she had colon cancer. Garner died late last year.

Cancer patients require more blood than any other single patient category, and Cypriano, who pledged to begin giving blood this year, called donors “silent angels.” She is impressed with donors’ dedication to continue giving blood, she said.

Transfusions her mother received from anonymous donors rejuvenated her, if only temporarily, she said.

“Death doesn’t break the bond of love,” she said.

Recognized at the luncheon were the few Century Donors on Kaua’i, who have given 100 or more pints of blood. They are led by Bob Burnz, who has donated 160 pints of blood.

Super Donors, who have given 56 or more pints of blood, were also recognized, as were first-time donors and other volunteers.

January has been proclaimed national, state and county Volunteer Blood Donor Month.

There are 1,200 blood donors on Kaua’i, donating around 2,000 pints of blood each year. Nationally, there are eight million blood donors, yet more are needed.

Every three seconds, someone in the United States needs blood. Some 34,000 pints of blood are used every day.

Staff Writer Paul C. Curtis can be reached at mailto:pcurtis@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 224).

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