Heidi Ely grew up believing that blood donation was just a civic duty, not a grand act of service or a reason to brag. But as an adult, she became keenly aware of the importance of donated blood--after receiving it herself.
Heidi was introduced to blood donation at a young age. Her mother was a nurse, and her father gave regularly as a donor with a coveted blood type. As a result, she never thought of blood donation as some dramatic gesture or act of service.
“My parents always donated blood as if it were their honor and civic duty, but never talked about it that way,” she recalled. “For them, it was like buying a loaf of bread at the store. It was just something you did without talking about it or questioning it.”
And growing up this way, with blood donation as part of her family’s routine, Heidi just assumed she would join the ranks of lifesavers herself. Once she came of age, she tried donating at her high school’s blood drive, but was turned away for anemia—a common occurrence for many high school students.
But her anemia kept interfering. “I tried again as an adult at a work blood drive and again was told no due to my hematocrit level, which was caused by an underlying medical problem,” she said. “I went on to have a more severe anemia caused by the same medical problem, which ended up causing severe bleeding.”
At this point, Heidi’s anemia took a turn for the worse—not just preventing her from donating blood, but requiring her to receive transfusions herself.
“I was in the ER, about to not make it, if they didn't give me blood,” she said. “I was very sick and knew I needed it to live so I wasn't afraid, and I was very tired because of how sick I was--so I slept through my first transfusion of two units of blood. The second time I was not as bad off, but my levels were low enough that I needed one unit of blood.”
While Heidi has always understood blood donation as an important duty, she feels especially grateful to blood donors now she is a blood recipient.
“After each transfusion I felt so much better, and I’m grateful for the procedure,” she said. “Thank you to each and every one of the three donors whose blood I received. I and my family thank you. I owe my life to your donations--and thanks especially to B positive donors. That's my type!”
Heidi cannot be a blood donor herself, but she is a fervent supporter of donation and has taken it upon herself to be an advocate for Hoxworth.
“I promote blood donation on my Facebook page by sharing Hoxworth's posts and sharing my own experiences as a donor blood recipient,” she said. “Showing appreciation to donors is half the battle.”
And though she cannot donate, she wants to encourage others who are able to roll up a sleeve when they can: “This is a total way to totally give of yourself while you're alive, so you will know for sure you are helping someone who really needs it!”