The vital nature of blood donation never became so apparent to the O'Bryan family as it did when their son Brady, 27, an elite triathlete and the UCLA Triathlon Coach, was critically injured on November 8, 2015 participating in a triathlon in Venice, Florida. This highly-trained athlete was powerless to avoid colliding with an SUV turning directly in his path, nearly ending his life.
Brady's injuries included multiple broken bones, one completely crushed lung and the other collapsed, and both with holes from his fractured ribs. His spleen and liver were also lacerated.
AND he lost almost half his blood.
A highly durable bike helmet, EMS, the incredible trauma team at Sarasota Memorial Hospital and blood donors all contributed to saving his life. AND so did financial donors.
The gift of blood and platelets are priceless and Brady's story is a daily reminder that you never know when someone will need this precious gift. Our financial donors also support our mission by allowing us to have the cutting edge technology, vital to keeping the community blood supply safe and available.
Hannah Marsh’s story began in 2008 when she was five years old. She woke up one morning with a severe nosebleed, bruising, and purple spots all over her body. ER doctors found that her platelet count was fatally low and her organs were shutting down. Fortunately, a quick diagnosis showed that Hannah had hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH). HLH affects about one in 1.2 million children and causes an immune system malfunction, destroying red and white blood cells and platelets. She didn’t respond to the treatment, and her only hope of a cure was a bone marrow transplant.
“There was no match in our family or in the entire U.S. We finally got a match in Germany,” said her mom Kelly Marsh. “Hannah received the transplant one day before her sixth birthday, but for all the months leading up to that, she was totally dependent on blood transfusions.” In all, Hannah received more than 400 life-sustaining units of blood and platelets.
Hannah’s older sister Shelby became a blood donor as soon as she was old enough, and the youngest plans to donate as soon as she turns 16. “Before this happened, I really didn’t understand the importance of having a local blood bank that screens and crossmatches the appropriate blood for transfusion as well as having an adequate, safe blood supply within the community,” she said. “I did not have any idea that I personally would go through something like this.”
June 9, 2012, started as a day of celebration for a young couple expecting their first child. When Angel and Samantha Burt arrived at the baby shower being held in their honor, they had no idea that within hours Angel would be fighting for his life. “I had been having some trouble breathing for a couple of weeks before that,” Angel said, “but I thought maybe I had an infection. I never thought it would be what it turned out to be.” Angel had no idea that a time bomb was ticking inside his body. During the shower Angel collapsed, experiencing extreme respiratory distress. He was rushed by ambulance to Sarasota Memorial Hospital where his heart stopped, and he had to be resuscitated.
The Burts credit rapid response from EMS, gifted surgeons, and blood donors for saving Angel’s life. “You try to prepare yourself for the worst on the drive to the hospital,” Samantha says. “I thought maybe it was an allergic reaction or something, and then he wound up in surgery for nine hours. Doctors did open heart and lung surgery to remove a blood clot, which was two feet long and started as a deep vein thrombosis in his leg. He was only 19 years old at the time.” During and after surgery, Angel received 49 pints of blood, an astounding number considering that the average human body normally contains 10 pints. “From what the doctors have said, they were just pouring the blood into him in order for him to stay alive,” she said. Angel was diagnosed with lupus anticoagulants, which is a disorder that causes increased clotting within the body.
Angel spent six weeks in Sarasota Memorial recovering from his near-fatal experience. While he was in the cardiac step-down unit, Samantha went into labor. Nurses were able to wheel Angel to her side in time to be present for the birth of their son, Zayden. Today Angel is “as good as new,” Samantha says. “If it wasn’t for those who donated blood, he would not be alive,” Samantha said. The Burts are now the proud parents of two, with the addition of daughter Aria.
On Valentine’s Day in 2008 Bob, then age 69, was getting out of bed when he collapsed, in tremendous pain. Healthy and without warning, Bob had suffered an aortic aneurysm, generally fatal due to rapid blood loss. A miraculous chain of events including EMS, physicians, and 59 local blood donors saved his life. Bob underwent a 12-hour surgery that required 69 units of blood to save his life.
Bob’s story caught the attention of national media. “Apparently I ended up as the person who received the most blood ever during a surgery, and Good Morning America talked to me about my experience while I was in recovery,” he said. “Donating blood is very important to help save others’ lives. The doctors told me that without the blood bank, they would not have been able to operate.” Bob had donated blood consistently starting when he lived in Buffalo because his nephew was diagnosed with leukemia. As soon as he was medically cleared by his physicians, he began donating again. He wants to assure those who are leery about needles that blood donation is painless and only takes about half an hour.
Michelle received the happiest news of their lives in August 2013. Michelle was pregnant – with twins! Other than the normal risks associated with having twins at age 35, Michelle’s pregnancy went smoothly. That is, until she went into labor on January 2, 2014 at only 24 weeks along.
Michelle was rushed to Sarasota Memorial Hospital (SMH) where they confirmed she was in preterm labor. “The staff at SMH was wonderful. They did all they could and were able to keep me pregnant for a little over a week. However, on January 10, 2014, which was 15 weeks early, I went into full labor,” says Michelle. She gave birth to one boy weighing 1 lb. 13 oz. and a girl weighing 1 lb. 10 oz.
While she was still in the hospital recovering, Michelle received the first call from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at 1 a.m. the morning after she delivered. Michelle remembers, “My babies needed a blood transfusion and they wanted my permission.”
Michelle was told that it was very routine for preterm babies to need a transfusion. “There was nothing about a blood transfusion for my day-old babies that seemed routine to me,” said Michelle. However, it became her new normal over those next few months, as they both had several transfusions to keep them alive and growing. Mason and Madelynn are now healthy, happy and active preschoolers.
Did you know that the average size of a blood transfusion for a newborn is only one tablespoon? Something as basic as blood loss associated with routine blood sampling for testing can cause a preterm baby to need a transfusion.
Fredd and Shelia Atkins are both well-known in Sarasota, their hometown. The Atkins have devoted their lives to their family and community. Both are involved in dozens of community, cultural, economic development and educational organizations.
They are also life-long blood donors. Fredd is up to 17 gallons and Shelia is at 3 gallons. Together, they encourage others to donate, especially the next generation. “We need to educate our children early about the importance of donating blood,” says Shelia. Both Shelia and Fredd are very busy but donating is something they take time for. “If I can find the time, I know you can,” remarks Fredd.