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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Parents lead blood donation drive at Auntie’s five years after baby Isaac needed transfusions

Cody and Laura Brincken donate blood in July. They annually organize a public blood drive, held Saturday at Auntie’s Bookstore, and named after their son Isaac, who at 5 months died in 2018 from a heart condition and other complications he had at birth. He needed 13 transfusions during his 157 days.  (Courtesy)

Cody and Laura Brincken’s son Isaac needed 13 blood transfusions during his 157 days of life.

Those transfusions – made possible by regional blood donors – gave them more days with Isaac before he died Oct. 10, 2018, his mom said. Moved by that generosity, they regularly donate blood and also began organizing a public blood drive through Vitalant each October.

Isaac’s Books and Blood Drive marks its third year, running 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Auntie’s Bookstore.

“Obviously, the blood transfusions didn’t give him a long life, but they did give us more days with him,” Laura Brincken said. “We’re just really passionate about blood donations and literally saving lives with it.”

A Vitalant mobile bus will be parked outside of Auntie’s, Laura Brincken said. In 2019, the Brinckens formed the nonprofit called Isaac’s Bookshelf, and people visiting the store Saturday can also donate children’s books to volunteers who will set up there. The nonprofit brings children’s literature on wheeled bookshelves to pediatric patients at Providence Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital.

Books were a big hit with Isaac. Whenever a family member read to him, he lit up. His eyes followed each colorful page, and he relaxed back to watch the show. His favorites were “Rex Wrecks It!” and “Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons.”

Isaac spent most of his five months in Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center after being born with both a heart condition and CHARGE syndrome, a complex genetic condition that presents with an array of medical and physical difficulties.

Blood donors are asked to preregister with Vitalant or through a link on Isaac’s Bookshelf Facebook or Instagram, and to check in with Isaac’s Bookshelf volunteers in the store before heading to the bus.

Cody and Laura Brincken are local teachers. She teaches Spanish at Lewis and Clark High School, and her husband is an elementary physical education teacher at Orchard Center Elementary in Spokane Valley. They have two other children, Isaac’s younger brothers Luke, 3, and Elliott, 1.

Most of the patients using Isaac’s Bookshelf are ages 4 and younger, so the greatest need is for picture or board books. The nonprofit has three bookshelves at the hospital, including for the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and the third for a general inpatient pediatrics floor. The bookshelves are all painted by local artists.

Pediatric patients also benefit from regional blood donations, Laura Brincken said. She gets regular emails and phone calls about the area’s “huge blood crisis” and lack of current donations.

Some of Isaac’s former nurses regularly donate blood to the drive. Some also bring their family members .

In a recent Spokesman-Review article on local blood banks implementing new policy following the FDA decision allowing gay men to donate, Vitalant Northwest Regional Director Jennifer Hawkins said the Pacific Northwest has lost 80,000 donors since 2010. Hospitals have needed 10% more blood since that time. As of 2023, there are only 20,000 donors left in Vitalant’s regional system.

“We think of cancer patients needing blood or acute trauma patients in a car crash needing blood, but little babies who are in the hospitals need it as well,” Laura Brincken said. “We just like to give people more opportunities and hopefully encourage them to become life-long blood donors.”