Rare disease from blood donor kills Georgia man, widow wants to see blood donor questionnaire change

On Your Side: Widow calling for change to blood donation questionnaire

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Last February, Robert or Bob Stickman went into St. Vincent's Hospital for back surgery. Hours into the procedure, what was normal became the abnormal. 
 
"They called me in," said Denise Stickman, the wife of Robert Stickman. "I'm expecting to hear everything went well and it's announced that there's no hope for my husband."
 
The love of her life had a reaction to a blood transfusion.  
 
"He went from the operating room into Intensive Care Unit and was pronounced dead that evening," she said.
 
What was suppose to improve his quality of life, took his life.
 
"He was looking for a better quality of life that's why he did it," she said. "If he thought he was going to die, he would have never done it."
 
Stickman demanded an autopsy and with the doctor's help the hospital complied.  The autopsy report reveals his cause of death consistent with transfusion related acute lung injury, TRALI.
 
"It happens from blood from women who have been pregnant, they carry certain antibodies that are rare, but you could have a reaction to them," she said.
 
Her husband did receive blood during surgery. 
 
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) confirms his cause of death was TRALI. The FDA also found one platelet donor positive with the HLA Class II antibodies.
 
"And that's what killed Bob, rare but it did," she said.
 
The history questionnaire for blood donors include specifically for females. Question 47 asked, "Have you ever been pregnant?"
 
"It doesn't go far enough,' Denise Stickman said.
 
Stickman wants the American Association of Blood Banks to expand the question to include, "Have you ever had a miscarriage or an abortion?"  
 
"She had to have been pregnant, miscarried or had abortion,had to be," she said. "To me, she didn't answer that question properly or her blood would not have been used."
 
May 2016, the American Association of Blood Banks modified its question was modified to: "Have you ever been pregnant or are you pregnant now?" 
 
The Association said the intent is to capture miscarriages and abortions.
 
"Why don't the test women for these antibodies?," she asked. "How much can it costs?"
 
She believes if the words "have you had a miscarriage or an abortion" are added to the questionnaire, it would force female donors to be more truthful and may save lives.
 
"That's all I'm asking," Denise Stickman said. "Simple words that  might prevent someone from going through this."
 
It has been a year since losing her husband. It has been painful. They have enjoyed each other for 36 years. Her motive is very simple, even though this is considered rare, it isn't until it happens to you.
 
She said just a simple change in the language on the questionnaire may prevent someone from having to experience what she is now going through.  
 

© 2017 WTLV-TV


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