“You don’t have to be rich, well-educated, virtuous, or famous to literally save someone’s life: just GIVE BLOOD and become someone’s hero!”
When a crisis strikes, it is crucial that local hospitals have the blood they need on the shelf and ready to go at a moment’s notice—for a patient undergoing an emergency surgery, their survival can depend on the availability of blood products.
Amy Alexander learned this firsthand after losing almost all of her blood volume following an otherwise routine surgery.
“Three weeks after a hysterectomy in the spring of 2015, I was preparing to return to work as a sixth grade teacher,” Amy recalled. “I went to the doctor for my final check and had no issues, except for a little low back pain that I assumed had developed due to required inactivity following surgery.”
Within a few days, however, that minor pain turned into a life-threatening emergency. Just 36 hours after her follow-up, she woke up in the middle of the night to a true nightmare: She was hemorrhaging blood.
“I woke up in a bed full of blood, and it was flowing from me like someone had turned on a faucet,” she said.
Fortunately, Amy was able to call 911 from her bed and was transported to the hospital by ambulance, where EMTs frantically tried to prevent her from bleeding to death. ER doctors were able to stop the bleeding temporarily, but the hemorrhage started up again a few hours later.
"The doctors determined that I had developed an infection from the surgery and that was causing the back pain,” she explained. “They surmised that inflammation had caused an artery to rupture somewhere inside me, which triggered the hemorrhaging. My own doctor arrived and performed surgery to locate the artery but couldn’t, so I was taken to the recovery room while the team discussed next steps.”
But the medical team didn’t have much time to plan, as Amy continued to lose precious blood. “It quickly became evident that the surgery caused the bleeding to resume even worse than before, so for a second time in one day, I underwent surgery to try to find the source of the gushing blood,” Amy recalled. “The doctor said I nearly died on the operating table due to catastrophic hemorrhaging.”
Although Amy’s surgeon was finally able to locate the source of the bleeding and repair the damage, she had lost much of her own blood—which, for the average woman, can be 9 to 10 pints. Her survival and recovery depended on the availability of blood from volunteer blood donors.
“During surgery and in the following days, I received lifesaving transfusions—four units of packed red blood cells. My doctor told my family that they were what kept me alive,” Amy said. “He said, ‘You were very lucky to live close to a hospital. In most parts of the world you would have died. You owe your life to blood donors. You would not have survived if we hadn’t been able to access large amounts of donated blood very quickly.’”
Pulled back from the brink of death by her medical team and donated blood, Amy had a long recovery ahead of her. However, throughout the process, she was inspired and motivated by the thought of the donors who saved her.
“I survived a very traumatic episode with what has been a long, challenging recovery; however, my lingering thoughts focus not on that but on the blood donors – the people who voluntarily shared their own life’s blood with me,” she said. “I will never be able to repay the debt that I owe my heroes, but I will do my best to raise awareness for blood donation and will do everything I can to encourage those who are able to DONATE BLOOD! You don’t have to be rich, well-educated, virtuous, or famous to literally save someone’s life: just GIVE BLOOD and become someone’s hero!”