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Biolife helping save lives in Haiti

MANATEE — Driving to work after learning of the Haiti earthquake, Biolife President and Chief Executive Officer Sam Shake wondered how quickly a shipment of his company’s anti-bleeding product could be sent to the devastated country.

When he reached his office on Tallevast Road, it turned out his 35 employees were thinking the same thing.

“Almost everybody in this place said, ‘How are we going to get this to Haiti?’ ” he said. “So we started making calls and hooked up with Agape Flights. We were able to scrounge up several hundred units the first day.”

To date, the company has shipped 8,500 units of WoundSeal, a topical powder used to stop bleeding, to Port au Prince through a number of medical teams, mission groups and non-profits like Hope for Haiti in Naples.

WoundSeal is able to stop bleeding of minor wounds in seconds by forming a scab once the powder — a combination of hydrophilic polymer and potassium ferrate — combines with blood. The product is used in first-aid kits, in hospitals and clinics for medical treatments, and sold in retail stores like Publix.

Using the powder prevents infection, which has probably been a life saver for many quake victims who had little or no access to antibiotics, Shake said.

The shipments — worth about $25,000 — have temporarily drained the company’s supplies. “Within nine days we had five shipments,” Shake said.

But manufacturing has geared up and he expects more will soon be on its way.

Dorann Nasewicz, a sales director at Biolife who is in charge of charitable donations, has a personal connection to the medical product and the country that is receiving it.

Her teenage son was on a mission trip to Haiti in December, a month before the earthquake, and took a box of WoundSeal with him for the school he was visiting.

When the earthquake happened, Nasewicz thought about that box and figured it had been buried underneath the school’s rubble.

“But my son had gotten in contact with some of the kids, and they had used it and wanted us to send more right away,” she said.

“Thank God it was there.”

Shake says the donations are a reflection of the mission and vision developed by the company a year ago when he took over.

“We develop and market products that improve the quality of life,” he said. “We want to contribute to the universal greater good because people who really need our device have probably never heard of it and can’t afford it.”

The company has donated the wound healer during the past year to Peru and Tanzania health projects. But this is the first time Biolife has responded to a tragedy of this scale.

“It is extremely rewarding to work here and know this product is saving lives,” Nasewicz said.