Noha Eyada has an appreciation for life that many do not. A Hoxworth Blood Center employee with an infectious smile and a comforting voice, she views each day as a precious gift.
“I get up early to watch the new sunrise every morning and make sure I see the sunset too at the end of the day,” she says. “My passion is to try to inspire people to enjoy life and not live in mediocrity, as it is a true blessing that we take for granted way too often.”
It’s easy to understand why Noha has so much gratitude and appreciation for life—she has a lot to be thankful for. She’s traveled the world, built a beautiful family, and spends her time doing the things she loves, like running marathons, gardening, and being a Girl Scout leader.
But Noha knows that she didn’t get here on her own. As a blood recipient, she was given the gift of her beautiful life by hundreds of generous blood donors.
Born in Kuwait to Egyptian parents, Noha’s experiences with blood donors began at a young age. She was just 8 years old when she was diagnosed with immune thrombocytopenic purpura, or ITP. ITP is a blood disorder that is characterized by a deficiency of platelets in the blood; while a normal platelet count is in the range of 150,000 to 450,000, a person with ITP might have a platelet count below 100,000. The lower the platelet count, the greater the risk of bleeding—and Noha recalls that was a very real risk for her as a child.
“I was at risk for any sort of bleeding…back then, there was little known about ITP and how to deal with it,” she remembers. “I was pulled out from all sports, which I loved, as I was on the basketball team and volleyball team. I was even banned from recess.”
Meanwhile, she says, the experimentation of different treatments began. At one point, “I was scheduled to have a splenectomy and left liver lobectomy,” Noha recalls. “But when my mom was in England on a work-related trip, she presented my case to them at the children’s hospital and there was a complete shift. They asked her to abort that scheduled surgery, saying that I would need my spleen and liver at that young age, and that they wanted me to come to England for testing and treatment.”
“This is where my next chapter began,” she continues. “I was living in Children’s Hospital in London, with so much testing being done. I remember my very first bone marrow transplant at the age of 11 just as if it took place yesterday. I overheard the doctors telling my parents at one point that my only savior would be the bone marrow transplants and transfusions, and that I would be lucky to live to 25.”
But the bone marrow transplants, along with regular blood transfusions from donors, allowed her to surpass all of her doctors’ expectations. With her future bright ahead of her, Noha started making plans for an extraordinary life.
“I finished high school at the age of 16 and was heading to Cambridge University to study computer science, which was one of my passions,” she recalls. “But history played a role once again in deviating my path when Saddam invaded Kuwait that year, and my family lost everything.”
Noha and her family returned to Egypt—“a major adjustment on multiple levels, the biggest of which was the language, as I hardly spoke Arabic,” she says. “I couldn’t afford Cambridge, and private schools were beyond our capabilities, since we had lost everything.”
Though she was forced to abandon her studies at Cambridge, Noha didn’t let the sudden setback deter her. Instead, she changed course and pursued another passion: Finding a cure for ITP.
There are many heroes with no capes walking around us every day saving lives with their donations. Many underestimate that this simple act of kindness they do actually saves a life!
Noha Eyada, blood recipient
“I decided then that I wanted to become a scientist and find a cure for kids with ITP, so they won't go through the suffering that I lived,” she says. She enrolled in medical school at Cairo University, specializing in hematology and oncology; in her final year of residency, she met her now-husband and moved to the United States with him.
Since coming to the United States, Noha has had a rich and fulfilling life. In the last 20 years, she’s married, had three children in spite of complications from her ITP, and traveled the country to work as a doctor and a medical researcher. At one point, she was living her dream to work on a cure for ITP in infants at the Baylor College of Medicine along with MD Anderson and Texas Children’s.
Throughout it all, she’s relied on platelets—and donors—to maintain her health and allow her to enjoy her life.
“Over the years I have received many donations of platelets—once I get my transfusions, usually the first couple of days I am beat up in bed but then I am just like a horse that is at the start point of the Kentucky derby!” she says. “There are many heroes with no capes walking around us every day saving lives with their donations. Many underestimate that this simple act of kindness they do actually saves a life!”
But it’s not just the regular platelet donors who have saved her life, she adds. In February of 2021, following a surgery a month prior, Noha ended up in the emergency room “in agonizing pain,” she says. After calling her doctor, who urged her to seek medical attention, “I got to the hospital thinking I will only be scanned and head home,” she recalls. “I even messaged my husband and told him to have dinner with the kids, and that I would be home after we found out what was going on. That did not happen…after some lab work and scans, they discovered that I had a 10 cm tumor pressing on my kidney, causing it to not function. It was also attached to my colon, bladder, and other organs in my pelvis. I was not allowed to go home that day and they wanted to take me in for immediate surgery.”
Anxious and alone, with her family unable to visit due to COVID-19 restrictions, Noha stayed the night while her doctors strategized on how to remove the tumor. The following morning, she was taken into surgery.
“They had a whole team of specialized surgeons ready to work on me: Urology, gastroenterology, and oncology,” she says. “I woke up after to realize surgery lasted for 10 hours—they had to reconstruct the whole area and they did a great job. But I also learned that I lost a whole liter of blood during surgery, and if it wasn't for blood donors, I would not have made it through.”
Noha stayed in the hospital for ten more days before she was able to go home, but continued to come back to the hospital every other day for continued transfusions. “had a total of six blood transfusions, for which I am most grateful for all the donors. And I came back to work after 5 weeks, which I was really looking forward to.”
Noha has been working at Hoxworth as a Donor Relations Coordinator since November of 2020, and though she’s always felt deep gratitude for blood donors, her appreciation for them has only grown.
“I always thought I knew how important blood donation was because I see it through the lens of being helped,” Noha says. “Now, it feels so much more profound. Every day is a gift that will never be replaced or come back again. Every time life brings be down to my knees, I remind myself with how wonderful life can be and how it can do its magic and surprise me. Seeing all these donors walking in the door, coming to donate and save lives, is like my beacon of hope, and I feel most grateful to each and every one of them.”
“After going what I had to go through when I was younger, I acknowledged that I want to help others, knowing that people have helped me by donating their blood to a complete stranger,” she adds. “I love to be part of the community that saves lives. Even though I say I’d love one day to donate blood and be on the giving end rather than being on the receiving end all the time, just being part of this wonderful team that is saving lives satisfies me the most. I get to meet a wide variety of people every day, and I see the different looks on donors’ faces when they come in. You can tell that each one has his or her story to tell. That is the beauty of this job. I can’t think of a better gift than the gift of life.”
Though she can’t donate herself, Noha is a vocal proponent of blood donation, encouraging her friends, family and community to roll up a sleeve. “I always question and wonder who the heroes are who have saved my lives tremendous and numerous times,” she says. “I see work peers who, when they hear my story, they register to donate and tell me that they are donating for me. You can’t imagine how grateful I feel, and my heart is just fluttering!”
In fact, her husband has joined the ranks of Hoxworth lifesavers—despite his fear of needles.
“After I started working here and came home every day telling him all these wonderful stories about all the amazing donors I meet throughout the day, he decided to come in and donate,” she says. “Not just that, my oldest son, who is 20, came in to donate that day for the first time, too! Then on my birthday this year, the best gift I ever got was that my husband walked in that day with flowers to the center I was working in, and he donated that day too.”
Being able to meet and thank so many lifesaving donors each day, Noha says, is one of the best parts of her job. She truly believes in Hoxworth’s mission—because without donors, she wouldn’t be able to see each beautiful sunrise, spend time with her family, or appreciate every moment of her extraordinary life.
“To all those who have donated platelets or blood, I say: There are no words of gratitude that can explain how I feel,” she finishes. “It is because of you all that I am here today, being able to enjoy life and each and every day, being able to be around my family and kids and to come to work and do what I love most. Thank you, and I wish one day I get to meet you all and thank you in person for saving my life. Please be assured that your donation does make a difference!”