Why Blood Donors are My Heroes

by Joey Hoffman, mother of a blood recipient

Hoffman2_1.22On February 8, 2003, my daughter, Daisy, received her first blood transfusion immediately after birth. It helped save her life – as did countless other transfusions over the years.

At eight weeks in utero, Daisy was diagnosed with gastroschisis, a congenital condition in which her intestines developed outside of her body in the amniotic fluid. My OB-GYN stated that she would be okay. They would place her intestines back inside her abdomen, and she’d recover in the neonatal intensive care unit for two weeks.

Daisy lived in the NICU for seven months.

Daisy didn’t recover as her physicians anticipated, so two weeks after she was born she returned to the operating room for exploratory surgery. What did they find? Most of her small and large intestines were necrotic, or dead. That night, crib-side, she received more blood, helping to save her life once again. As a snowstorm raged outside, I watched each drop of blood flow into her tiny body, a four-hour process that ended at midnight.

As a first-time mom still recovering from my cesarean section, plus acclimating to New York City hospital life and the fact that my daughter’s life was in moment-to-moment jeopardy, I was on autopilot – praying, visualizing and feeling grateful that she was alive. It was hard to imagine that people we had never met donated their blood to help save a stranger’s life. PD (pre-Daisy), I had never received blood or given blood. I just knew that the American Red Cross was the revered, go-to organization that helps save lives around the world.

After she was discharged from the NICU, and after repeated complications, it became clear that my baby needed a transplant. When Daisy was 3 years old, we moved to Omaha, Nebraska. (as a consummate city gal, I didn’t know where Omaha was until months later when I looked on a map.) There she received a small bowel, liver and pancreas transplant – and more blood. Each year, we celebrate the anniversary of her transplant as her re-birthday.

Daisy has received so many blood transfusions I have lost count. Receiving blood was as common in our world as attending a “Mommy & Me” class was for a typical kid. Clearly, there was nothing typical about Daisy or our life. But no matter, she was alive! Seven months after the transplant, she was diagnosed with post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorder, a cancer of the immune cells, and received four months of chemotherapy and more blood.

Hoffman1_1.22Now, Daisy (or Tween as I call her) is a vivacious, sharp and––dare I say?––normal, 12-year-old, hyper-hormonal girl. She spent one month at sleep-away camp in rural Wisconsin, got braces, and started middle school. Her biggest worry is what to wear to her Bat Mitzvah party, a far cry from the days when I didn’t know how much more time she would have with us.

Scores of heroes helped save my daughter’s life by sharing their blood with her. Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood. Please consider rolling up a sleeve with the American Red Cross so you can help patients like Daisy.

In honor of January being National Blood Donor Month, do your part to help save a life and donate blood or host a blood drive. Blood donation appointments can be quickly and easily scheduled by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting redcrossblood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

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