‘Pints for Preemies’ Challenge Helps Mayo’s Youngest — and Tiniest — Patients

The importance of blood and organ donation has always been apparent to ICU nurse Jenny MacIntyre. But when her daughter was born more than three months early, her appreciation for donors grew.

As a nurse in one of Mayo Clinic's intensive care units, Jenny MacIntyre knows all too well the role blood and organ donations can play in reversing the fortunes of critically ill patients. So much so that in addition to being a regular at Mayo Clinic's Blood Donor Program, she's also donated one of her kidneys and part of her liver to help save the lives of some of those patients.

Two years ago the importance of selfless giving hit home when Jenny's daughter, Eleanor, was born three-and-a-half months too soon. As this story on Mayo Clinic's online patient community, Mayo Clinic Connect, details, at the time of her birth, young Eleanor weighed just 1 pound, 15 ounces. She spent the first 143 days of her life inside Mayo Clinic's Neonatal intensive care unit, where she received the highly specialized care and multiple blood transfusions she needed to survive.

"Eleanor received blood draws every day for the first few months and sometimes numerous times a day," Jenny says. "That amount of blood volume taken from a baby that small was a lot for her little body to replenish, especially since she didn't have a mature system to start with." But Jenny was able to take her daughter home five weeks after her scheduled due date. "We were fortunate that blood products were available when Eleanor was in need," Jenny says. "Thank you to all who have donated; it truly makes a difference."

Today, Jenny tells us Eleanor is a happy, healthy and rather spunky 2-year-old. She's also become the poster child, if you will, for a special blood drive at the Mayo Clinic Blood Donor Program called Pints for Preemies, created to raise awareness of the blood donation needs of premature babies.

"Eleanor was born on Nov. 17, which just so happens to be World Prematurity Day," Katy Maeder, the Blood Donor Program's Marketing & Recruitment coordinator, tells us. "Jenny likes to celebrate Eleanor's birthday at the Blood Donor Program each year, so we decided to start a new month-long community-based challenge to see how many units of blood we could get in honor of Eleanor and World Prematurity Day."

This year's challenge, which ran from Oct. 16 to Nov. 17, netted a total of 66 units of blood and included donations from Eleanor's family as well as members of her care team at Mayo Clinic, who stuck around after donating blood to help Eleanor celebrate her second birthday. "We had a party for her at the Blood Donor Program," Maeder says. "We had her friends and family there, as well as a photographer, to help us celebrate not only World Prematurity Day but also Eleanor's second birthday."

A second birthday that Jenny tells us couldn't have been more fitting. "We feel so blessed to be part of a community that supports blood donation like this," Jenny says. "If it weren't for donors, Eleanor wouldn't be here today."

You can read more about Eleanor and the Pints for Preemies challenge here. Then give us something to read by sharing your comments below before using the social media tools atop this page to share this story with others.