Hannah Tuttle’s heart probably skipped a beat when she learned the decision, but that would be nothing new. Hannah has a heart condition that causes it to beat at an irregular pace. It’s one of the reasons – and there are many – that earning a Red Cord to wear at Madison Junior-Senior High School graduation with three successful blood donations had become not just a worthy goal, but a personal mission.
“Mission accomplished” would mean donating Friday, Feb. 28 at Madison’s final blood drive of her senior year. But she would have to pass the screening process with an acceptable pulse rhythm.
Hannah’s condition is called tachycardia, which means her heart rate exceeds the normal range. She is an honor student in math and science who didn’t see the logic in why an odd heart rate might prevent her from donating blood. Her career goal is international business law, and she argued a good case to her cardiologist. Following his guidelines, she made two successful donations at Madison High School drives. But the third donation became elusive.
She was deferred at the spring blood drive of her junior year and again in November, both times because of irregular pauses or “skipped beats.” Simply by registering to donate Hannah had earned her Red Cord from Community Blood Center (CBC) to wear at graduation. But she wanted it to represent three actual donations.
She set her sights on Madison’s Feb. 22 blood drive and prepared by securing a detailed letter from her doctor and discussing her condition in advance with CBC. But that morning ice and sleet covered the roads and school was cancelled.
In less than a week CBC rescheduled a smaller, bloodmobile drive for Thursday, Feb. 28. Snow fell overnight, but school opened on time, the bloodmobile arrived, and Hannah had her chance.
The smaller drive was limited to seniors and juniors. Classmates donated as Hannah went through screening. Again, Hannah’s heart skipped beats. As planned, the screeners conferenced by phone with Collection Services Director Kay Ollech.
“I think it’s amazing,” said fellow senior Sophia Mullins, who made her third lifetime donation while Hannah waited for news. “She has this problem, but she’s trying. There are so many people in our school who don’t even try to donate but she tries anyway and she has a reason not to.”
Senior Emily Bolen, also a third-time donor at the drive, worried about how Hannah would feel if she couldn’t reach her goal. “I don’t think she should stress about it,” said Emily. “It would be good if she could, but I’m glad that she’s trying.”
Moments later Hannah got the decision that made her heart leap – this time – with joy. She settled into a donor bed. “Dreams do come true,” CBC staff member Garret Thomas told her as prepped her arm. “I was really, really worried,” she admitted. “I didn’t know if I would be able to. I was happy.”
Soon she was in the Donor Café, the blue camouflage bandage she chose around her arm, munching cookies with Sophia. “How did it go?” asked Sophia. “They had to call to make sure I was able to give,” she answered.
For Hannah and her “blood donor sisters,” it’s on to the next challenge. Sophia and Hannah have both been accepted at Ohio State, and both will study business. Hannah is already thinking about upcoming practices for the school musical “Annie.” Before long, it will be time for graduation.
“Now I feel I can really wear my Red Cord,” she said with pride, and a big smile.