Steady stream of blood donations honor Bel Air woman

Carolyn Lynch, who is battling leukemia, talks about the blood drive organized by her and her husband in an effort to give back to the people who helped her during her cancer fight. (David Anderson and Dan Griffin, Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Carolyn Lynch has spent most of the past six months in the hospital being treated for leukemia, but she had the opportunity to come out Monday evening and meet some of the people who have been supporting her in her ongoing battle against cancer.

"It's been a process, because I've been in and out of the hospital – more in than out – since June," she said.


Lynch, 50, of Bel Air, visited the second blood drive set up in her honor by her husband, Richard Lynch, the co-owner of the Buontempo Bros. pizza shop and the Main Street Tower restaurant, both in downtown Bel Air.

Lynch was diagnosed with leukemia June 19, a day she calls "the worst day of my life."


Richard Lynch organized the first blood drive, which was held Aug. 31. That blood drive, and Monday's, were in the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company's main station on South Hickory Avenue.

Carolyn Lynch, center, is joined by her husband, Richard, left, and her mother, Beverly Pfingston, right, as she talks with a friend donating blood during Monday's blood drive in honor of Lynch at the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company. Lynch was diagnosed with leukemia June 19.
Carolyn Lynch, center, is joined by her husband, Richard, left, and her mother, Beverly Pfingston, right, as she talks with a friend donating blood during Monday's blood drive in honor of Lynch at the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company. Lynch was diagnosed with leukemia June 19. (MATT BUTTON | AEGIS STAFF)

Richard Lynch said at least 70 units of blood had been donated toward the end of Monday's blood drive, which lasted for six hours. The turnout was not as large as the first event, when American Red Cross operators were overwhelmed with 56 people in the first hour, and staffers directed the overflow crowd to other area blood drives.

"I thought it was a very good event," Lynch said of Monday's blood drive. "It was a good cause, and it's like anything else, it can always be busier."

The blood drives are in honor of "Team Carolyn," those who have been supporting Carolyn Lynch, but the blood will not benefit her.

The American Red Cross of the Greater Chesapeake & Potomac Region will use the donated units to support patients in the agency's service area in Maryland, Washington, D.C., southeastern Pennsylvania and Northern Virginia, according to Rob Rossi, an account representative in donor recruitment for the Red Cross.

"I didn't need it, they had plenty of blood for me," Carolyn Lynch said. "We wanted to help others who would need it."

Trish Getz, of Churchville, greeted Richard Lynch when she arrived to donate. She told him she has been praying for Carolyn's recovery.

The veteran registered nurse, who owns the Bel Air-based Katherine's Keepers home health care agency, said she recognizes the importance of blood donations.

"If you want to know a good way to support your friends during a difficult time, this is the best way I know," Getz said.

Kathy Bruck, of Bel Air, who teaches at Fallston Middle School, said she has been donating blood since she was a freshman in college. Bruck, 50, said she has donated 90 units of blood in more than 30 years.

Bruck noted her mother needed a blood transfusion when going through back surgery, and her father needed blood while being treated for lung cancer.

"I appreciate anything other people have given, so when I have a chance I give back," she said.


At first, Richard Lynch thought his wife just had a sore throat. But about two months ago, the co-owner of Bel Air's Buontempo Brothers Pizza was shocked to learn Carolyn, who just turned 50, actually had leukemia.

Aimee Grebe, of Bel Air, and Daylen, her 16-year-old son, donated Monday. Grebe said her mother, who died from cancer in 2014, needed blood transfusions during all of her cancer-related surgeries – her mother had cancer three times.

"She had a very rare blood type," Grebe said of her mother, who had type O negative blood. "There was always a search for [blood] when she would need it."

People age 16 and older can donate blood every 56 days, or 112 days, if they do a "double red" and donate two units of red blood cells, according to Rossi, of the Red Cross.

Grebe said she and her son try to donate once every 56 days, or as close to every 56 days as possible. Monday was the second time Daylen has donated blood, and he donated two units.

He noted blood donations "help a wide variety of people."

"It's not as painful as some people think," Daylen said as blood ran from his arm into a tube and collected in a plastic bag.

The blood will be available for Harford County patients, as University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Medical Center in Bel Air and Harford Memorial Hospital in Havre de Grace will be among the hospitals that receive the donations after they are screened, Rossi said.

"I appreciate that they are willing to come out and give a pint of blood to somebody else," Carolyn Lynch said of the donors. "I don't know how many pints I've had since June."

She has been through multiple forms of cancer treatment at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, with the most recent being a stem cell transplant.

Her oldest brother, Chris Pfingsten, of Rodgers Forge, was the donor. Lynch is the third youngest of four siblings.

"He ended up being my 100 percent match," she said of Chris.

Lynch had to remain in isolation at the hospital after the transplant was completed, and she was released Dec. 21. Her parents, Beverly and Bill Pfingsten, of Bel Air, must be her caregivers for 100 days through March.

"We've learned a lot from all this," Beverly Pfingsten said of current cancer treatments. "It's amazing, amazing what they do."

Lynch works as a financial analyst for the Belcamp office of the Weston Solutions Inc. environmental engineering firm. She has three children and one grandchild.

Lynch said she is doing well, and she is "definitely happier" because she could spend Christmas Eve with her family.

"The doctors are very happy about my progress, and a lot of it has to do with your attitude," she said. "I'm not going to let this get me down; I'm too young."

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