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Health and Fitness

Donating Blood Really Can Make the Difference Between Life and Death

The day a stranger saved my life

When I was pregnant with my second daughter, Clara, I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. I worried about my life and the life of my unborn daughter. There was never a choice for my husband and me as to whether we were going to continue on with the pregnancy, even though we knew the cancer could spread.

After my daughter was born I was set to have a total hysterectomy. The surgery went well. However, 24 hours later I started having major complications. I was clinging to life. It became obvious that something was very wrong. The cancer didn't kill me, but the surgery was trying to. The doctors brought me in for an emergency surgery to see what was going on.

I was a kid in the '80s when everybody talked about AIDS and needles, and I did not want another person's blood inside me.

Apparently, I had some major blood clotting and hemorrhaging at the same time. The doctors fixed the clot and tied up all the leaks, but I had a lot of blood loss. The doctors thought perhaps they could wait a little while and I would naturally restore my own blood. However, my blood oxygen level decreased. They let me know that I had to make the choice to have a transfusion, but I didn't want one. I was a kid in the '80s when everybody talked about AIDS and needles, and I did not want another person's blood inside me.

I pondered this decision for hours while I was in a state of relative consciousness. Finally, a wonderful nurse came in and said that she understood how I felt because she had to have a transfusion about three years earlier after an accident. She explained that she wouldn't have even been there to help me had she not received the transfusion. I realized if I didn't accept the blood transfusion that I might not be there for my daughters any longer. So I consented, and within minutes they had a few pints of some stranger's blood pouring into me.
Navy Photo

Within moments it seemed like I felt better. I was able to go home from the hospital a few days later and hold my baby girl. I was able to look back very quickly and realize how much different life could have been had I never been pregnant, had they never found the cancer when they did, had I not opted for the surgery, had that nurse not eased me with her story about her own blood transfusion and her own concerns and worries... But more significantly I thought about that anonymous donor who one day gave blood not knowing if it would even really help someone. It did help someone.

The anonymous person that donated O- blood sometime before June of 2010 in Hawaii saved my life. He or she must not have had a sweet tooth because my love for sugar wasn't present for a few months, which is how long they say they say the blood stays in your system. I think about what my daughter's lives would be like if I didn't choose to have the transfusion and I can't help but start to cry. A blood donor saved my life. I have a new anniversary, the anniversary of the day I was given life by a perfect stranger. Donate blood - please. It truly saves lives. It saved mine.
Navy Photo

January is blood donation month. What better way to celebrate than by spending an hour doing something that may give someone a lifetime. Find more information about donating blood with the Armed Services Blood Program.