Give Life Hero

Giving blood and Red Cross involvement: A simple gesture that has turned into so much more

This crazy new adventure all began at the end of last year when my lifelong best friend Stacy asked me to go to a work event over lunch and donate blood. I swear I don’t think I even took a breath before saying ‘absolutely not!’ I hate needles, so why in the heck would I willingly put one in my arm? The answer was very simple and Stacy gave me that best friend nudge as to why I needed to. If people weren’t out there giving blood, then I wouldn’t be alive today. It is as simple as that. I’ve had 19 surgeries over the course of my life, and all of those were from losing my leg. That isn’t to include any future planned surgeries I might have. I felt so dumb, but I never thought about it. Not once! I think I had thought about every other thing you could possibly think about for surgeries—who was to thank or what I was blessed for. But for some reason, blood donators just never came to my mind. My ‘I’m not going because I hate needles’ answer quickly turned into ‘let’s go!’ That isn’t to say I wasn’t still terrified.

giving blood

Once we got to the location there were the series of ‘yes’ and ‘no’ questions that took a little bit, but once they get going it only takes a few minutes (and after doing it once it’s a breeze). For me, it took a little longer because I was so nervous I worked myself into having a temperature! I mean, who does that?! My temperature was too high to give blood? I told the woman to give me a few minutes because I’ve made it this far and there was no way that I would leave without donating. I talked myself down and I was good to go a short time after.

The process is quick and simple. They give you a few instructions, and with a quick prick of a needle the blood donating has begun! The time with the needle in my arm was under 10 minutes, and every time after it has been even quicker.  When you are done they give you some delightful snacks and a beverage and you hang out for a few minutes for health precautions. That’s it! I walked out of there in under a half hour. The only thought I had the rest of the day was that for a half hour of my time (and some blood I will never know is missing), I possibly just saved up to 3 lives! One of those people could be like me and need an unplanned blood transfusion while having emergency surgery, it could be a child who has some kind of life threatening cancer, heck… it could be the person standing right next to me. You just never know. I left the blood drive feeling ecstatic! I never thought that donating blood would be so empowering. I left the blood drive and went to explore the American Red Cross website. I wanted to know more about it; explore and see what else I could learn about a topic I knew nothing about.

The impact of reaching out and sharing our personal stories

I came across the ‘Share Your Story’ portion of the website, which was for either donators or blood recipients. I sat for a moment and thought about what end of my story to share. I knew that it was only right to share my first time giving blood, since this is what had transformed my attitude towards blood donation. I wrote something along the lines of,

“I never thought I would be someone who needed a blood transfusion, but I was and it saved my life after a horrible accident 4 years ago. And today I am proud to say that I passed along the donation of blood (even with a crazy fear of needles), which hopefully will save someone’s life—I feel amazing.”

Within a few days I received an email from a woman by the name of Sue. She was with the American Red Cross and wanted to hear more about my donation story and my accident which was my reason for donating. I don’t think that she was expecting a 4 year long story that was summed up to just 5 minutes, but that is what she got. I remember thinking I was just going to blow her away when I told her the severity of my accident.

We stayed connected and she invited me participate in the largest blood drive they had ever put on in MN! It was the 12 hours of giving on December 23. From participating in that event there was a news story done locally about the importance of giving blood. Because just like most, I wasn’t ever planning on needing blood transfusions or losing my leg, but things happen and we certainly are not invincible. I was honored to share my story in hopes of encouraging others. Maybe one thing I say could make someone think differently about donating. I know that’s all it took for me to have a change of heart and start the blood donation process.

Getting the call

The things that I volunteer and get involved in I do because I love to give back. I never expect anyone to recognize me because it really is meant to be a selfless act. A few months after donating and participating in the events, I got a call. It was a rep from the Red Cross who was informing me that I was being selected to receive an award at their annual Heroes Award Breakfast in the Give Life category. I was shocked! I mean come on; I have never won an award for anything even close to this. Of course without hesitation I said I would be honored to accept the award and I would love to participate and be a part of the heroes’ breakfast that was a few months away. I had no idea at that time what amazing things would come of something as simple as donating blood.

give life hero

I found out Sue, who I originally spoke to about my story, was the one who had nominated me. There was a lot to do around receiving this award. There was a photo and video shoot, and lots of communication back and forth. My friend Stacy and I filmed our stories about why we think giving blood is so important and what it means to us. I was honored to be able to continue to spread the word, so of course I said ‘yes!’

The big Heroes Breakfast ceremony

The Heroes Breakfast gathering took place in June. I can easily say that it was the best breakfast event I have ever attended. It was nice and early, my family and friends came to support me, and my work team ended up surprising me and showing up as well to show their support. It was so nice to have some of the most important people in my life there.  I mean let’s be real… you never know if or when you will ever be nominated for an award again!

REd cross heroes only

Upon arriving at the banquet, I learned that I would have the privilege of sitting next to the CEO and president for the American Red Cross, among many other ridiculously impressive and charitable people. The Give Life category was being sponsored by the North Central Blood Services Region. It was a true honor. To be able to have breakfast and great conversation with people that I look up to was such a spectacular experience. We shared stories, histories, future goals—it was incredible. Not long after breakfast they gave the six of us being honored an introduction, and then they played our videos. Each video focused on our stories and what we did to get nominated for the award. Check out my video and others who were also honored that morning. After playing our video, we were then called up on stage to receive our award by the person who was our sponsor. It was all overwhelming and went incredibly fast! But it was one of the best experiences I have ever had. I feel fortunate and blessed to be able to say I was honored by the American Red Cross North Central Region.

I can happily say that my endeavor with the American Red Cross has just begun. I cannot wait to see what all I will be involved in!

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