Pooling Blood
by Cheryl D'Ambrosio
Hoorah for Teresa 

August 16, 2011
Mercer Island, Washington



with her Managers
Melissa and Travus

Hoorah for Teresa

By Cheryl D'Ambrosio

Parents just love to brag about their kids.  I am no exception. I often brag about my two stepdaughters, and all they have accomplished.  My youngest, now age 29, is now an architect just like her dad Tony.  My oldest, Teresa, now age 32 is about to celebrate something we never dreamed of.

Our local Starbucks, affectionately known as The Mercer Island Drive Thru, has employed Teresa for the past ten years as their Lobby Busser.  They have provided her with an opportunity to showcase her skills. When I'm there sipping a cocoa cappuccino, I can watch her keep the lobby, excuse me Her Lobby beautiful.  She wipes up spills, refills the condiment bar, picks up trash, checks the bathrooms, and sweeps the outside patio, just to name a few of the 30 or so things she does during her 2 ½ hour shift. 

If I thought you had the time, I would tell you all of the things on her "To Do list", because, in fact, I have written them down.  I have to put them on paper, but Teresa has memorized them.  Over the years, Teresa, her Dad and I have met with her Mainstay(1) job coaches and her Starbucks managers.   Whatever she does to keep the store clean, the Baristas won't need to do.  That translates to more beverages and happier customers.

For Teresa, being a Lobby Busser at Starbucks, has become her life's calling.  She proudly wears the Starbucks uniform and matching jacket five days each week.  After all, this is Her Store.  It's been Her Store for ten years. She has seen many baristas and managers come and go over the years.  She is like an Aunt who greets them on their first day and hopes they will at least say "goodbye" when they leave.  She greets customers, new ones and returning ones.  She worries when the refuse truck didn't arrive making the garbage pile up.  She wonders what new merchandise will arrive and what new drinks will be introduced with each holiday season -- in the same way she used to wonder what she would get for Christmas.   Sleepless nights, and all.  Yes, like any business owner, she brings her work home with her. 

What most people probably don't know is that Teresa was born with a rare bleeding disorder that wasn't diagnosed correctly until it was almost too late.  Because girls aren't supposed to have bleeding disorders (according to most medical books), when Teresa was a few weeks old, the doctors saw her high fever and twitching eyes and initially misdiagnosed her with meningitis.  While she continued to bleed inside her head, had it not been for the Hemophilia Care Program(2) at the Puget Sound Blood Center including Dr. Richard Counts, Dr. Arthur Thompson and Maribel Johnson RN, she would have died.  They correctly diagnosed Teresa as having severe factor V deficiency (a rare bleeding disorder) and she improved immediately after receiving transfusions of fresh frozen plasma.  Emergency brain surgery was required to remove the clot that had formed in her head.  That surgery that also removed part of her brain, changed her life forever. 

What you see each day when she comes to work at Starbucks is a one in a million woman with a severe and rare bleeding disorder, who also has intermittent seizures.  But, she beat the odds and survived. (3) (4)

Through her young years, her life was full of supportive people through school vocational programs, family events and community activities.  Once she turned 21, opportunities for activities outside the home and meaningful employment came to a screeching halt.  Her dad and I have worked through agencies, many with limited funding and resources, to advocate for her well being and employment.  And then, ten years ago, our local Starbucks manager stepped up to bat and hired her.

Teresa's 10 Year Celebration with Starbucks Management Team

Which brings us to August 16, 2011 where Teresa's managers, Travus and Melissa along with District Manager, Paulie, have invited us to celebrate Teresa's tenth year at Starbucks.  We still have our photo of her fifth year Anniversary celebration at this store (it was our holiday card photos).  It was snapped before the new store was built.  We remember the old store.  It was before all the new condos popped up.  We remember so many of the baristas, and all of her wonderful managers.  There have been so many fabulous customers, over the years.  Hoorah for the Puget Sound Blood Center.  Hoorah for Mainstay.   Hoorah for Starbucks.

But most of all, Hoorah for Teresa. 

* *

(1) Mainstay, a career resource and supported employment program, was established in 1980 in partnership with Seattle Central Community College. Mainstay supports the community and business by matching individuals with varied capabilities and backgrounds to employers' needs.

(2) The Hemophilia Care Program of the Puget Sound Blood Center helps people with hemophilia obtain early, effective treatment and acquire skills that foster independence and minimize the acute and chronic complications of hemophilia.


(3)  Teresa and Maria's life and their rare bleeding disorder is chronicled in the book, Pooling Blood available through Amazon.com.  Website: www.poolingblood.com

(4)  For more information about girls and women with bleeding disorders, please see the website for MyGirlsBlood at: www.mygirlsblood.org