Friday, August 28, 2020

Our Red Cross Story: The Jokl Family

 By Sandy Habib, Red Cross Volunteer

In 2014 and early 2015, Lee and Kirsten Jokl were excited soon-to-be, first-time parents. By all accounts, Kirsten’s pregnancy was normal until early February 2015, when their son Elin was born six weeks prematurely. While being born so early can pose a huge challenge on its own, it was just the beginning of a slew of surgeries and procedures that Elin would soon face. 

Doctors quickly discovered that he was born with a blockage in his small intestine. At just 16 hours old, Elin underwent his first surgery. His medical team identified a blockage and removed the perforated section, thinking Elin’s problems were solved. Ten days later and still in the hospital, Elin’s body was fighting an infection in his bloodstream and became septic due to another blockage that doctors hadn’t previously discovered. He was then rushed to the Johns Hopkins Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), where he received his first Red Cross blood transfusion. Within days, he needed another surgery and with it, another blood transfusion.

Elin Jokl underwent his first of five surgeries just 16 hours after he was born.

Professionally, Kirsten is a Senior Physician Assistant in the Adult Emergency Department at Johns Hopkins Hospital. This enabled the couple to be highly involved in nearly every aspect of Elin’s care. A large part of his care at the time included ongoing blood transfusions. Lee discussed options with Johns Hopkins and the Red Cross; the team approved a plan that enabled Lee to donate lifesaving blood that went straight to his son, known as a “directed donation.”

After six blood transfusions, five surgeries and nearly three months in the NICU, Elin was finally able to go home in late April 2015. Since then, Lee, Kirsten, and Elin welcomed another addition to the family, Eva, born in 2017, and they are all happy and healthy. Elin knows the story of his early months and shows off his prominent belly scars as badges of honor. He is currently busy preparing for another proud moment, his first day of kindergarten.

Elin Jokl is ready for his next milestone: kindergarten.

Meanwhile, Lee has been doing what he can to build awareness for the critical – and constant – need for blood donors. He works at T. Rowe Price, a large financial services firm, and helped support regular on-site blood drives prior to COVID-19; he is eager to continue these workplace drives once it is safe to do so.


“Giving blood really is one of the easiest, most selfless things someone can do to have a huge, positive impact on another person. It means so much, as we know very personally.”

- Kirsten Jokl

He stays engaged with the Red Cross as a Board Member for the Central Maryland Chapter. The Board promotes the need for financial and blood donations in the local community, among other organizational priorities that support the Red Cross mission. The group recently participated in Central Maryland’s August “Run for the Red,” a virtual race through which runners secured sponsorships and donations that went to the Red Cross. Lee participated in the inaugural event “Run for the Red” and enjoyed the experience and sharing his accomplishment with friends and family on social media. 

Elin is healthy today in large part because of the generosity of blood donors and the Red Cross. Based on their experience with the Red Cross, Lee and Kirsten are all too happy to give back and encourage others to do the same.

The happy Jokl family today.
Lee explains, “I greatly appreciate anyone who takes time out of their day to donate blood, as well as the Red Cross for getting it to those in need. It was a huge process to get Elin all the blood he needed in those early months and I’m eternally grateful for all that the Red Cross did to partner with the hospital and help save Elin’s life. He wouldn’t be here today without all that.” 

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Give the gift of life by rolling up your sleeve and donating blood today – you can save up to three lives with every selfless donation. 

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