"I am so thankful there are amazing, selfless, lifesaving heroes out there that are willing to donate their blood. Without these donations, I wouldn't be here to celebrate life's many tiny miracles."
In 2015, Heather Bennett could not have asked for anything better than the life she had.
Living in the same town she grew up in, Heather was surrounded by her close-knit family, excelling in her career as a nurse, and was expecting her fourth child with her husband of nearly a decade. Life was perfect, until an unforeseen hemorrhage threatened to cut it short.
Fortunately for Heather, blood donations were there to save her life.
Heather was working in the emergency department on October 16, 2015 when she felt like something wasn't quite right. "I was working in the ED and had noticed my heartrate was extremely fast, in the 180 or 190 range, which had been happening several times over that last week," she recalls. "My OB doctor was called and in no time, Luke was here, born via emergency C-Section."
Soon thereafter, her son Luke went into respiratory distress, and had to be transported to Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center for treatment. "I had to stay at my local hospital to recover, but had every intention to leave the next morning to go visit Luke at Children's Hospital," Heather says. "But unfortunately, I started hemorrhaging."
Heather's bleeding quickly turned into an emergency--unable to stop the hemorrhage, the medical team had to perform an emergency hysterectomy. But the surgery didn't halt the damage.
"I was taken to the ICU at my local hospital, where they began transfusing blood, but my status was deteriorating and I wasn't responding as they had hoped," Heather recalls. Suffering from a massive hemorrhage, hemorrhagic shock, and DIC (disseminated intravascular coagulation, a clotting disorder which can be triggered by trauma or surgery), Heather was airlifted to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center for treatment.
"I was later told that if I had been 15 minutes later, I would not have made it," Heather says.
Over the next few days, Heather underwent two more additional surgeries to try to control the bleeding that was pooling in her abdomen. "One surgery removed four liters of blood, and another removed 5 liters off of my belly," she says. "They were transfusing blood, platelets and fresh frozen plasma--but as quickly as they were transfusing, the blood was emptying into my abdomen."
"Over a course of 4 days, I received 41 units of total blood products. They told me that I 'had my oil completely changed twice!'"
Combined with other complications, like pancreatitis and blood clots, Heather spent six weeks in the hospital. But you'd never know it, looking at her now. Today, you can find her playing kickball in the front yard or roasting s'mores with her husband, twin 8-year-olds Jack and Addi, 7-year-old Ethan, and 2-year-old Luke.
"Today, I am healthy and so thankful," she says. "To be honest, it did take several months to feel back to myself, but that was okay. And as for Luke, he is also healthy and such a happy kiddo."
And Heather knows that she has blood donors to thank for her continued health, as well as the blessing of being around for her family.
"Without a doubt, if I was unable to receive the blood that my body needed, I would not be here today," she says adamantly. "I am so thankful that there are amazing, selfless, lifesaving heroes out there that are willing to donate their blood. Without these donations, I wouldn't be here to celebrate life's many tiny miracles. I wouldn't be here to celebrate Christmas with my kids, to bake their cupcakes and celebrate their birthdays, to go school shopping with them, help with their homework, or to tuck them into bed. I wouldn't be here to watch them grow. Because of the unsung heroes that donate their blood, I get to do all of these things."
It's this understanding, and this overwhelming gratitude, that has inspired Heather to be an advocate of blood donation. As an employee of Margaret Mary Health in Indiana, Heather has used her story to motivate her colleagues and friends to roll up a sleeve at workplace blood drives and help a patient like her.
"As someone that has firsthand experienced the lifesaving miracle of blood transfusions, I strongly encourage anyone that is willing to donate, to do so. It is such an easy, selfless act and I can promise you, there is a mom and dad out there that are counting their blessings each and every night because you decided to donate blood."
"You never know what life has in store for you," she continues. "You never know what the next second of your life will bring. Donating blood saves lives. My hope is that if my story inspires even one person to donate blood that otherwise wouldn't have, I want that person to know that their selfless act saved someone's life. My hope is that sharing my story will help save someone else's life, too."
"And to those who donated the blood that I received, thank you," she finishes. "Thank you from the absolute bottom of my heart. Thank you for saving my life. And thank you for saving the lives of so many others. God bless you all."