To inspire people to give blood, we have found that the best motivation is to understand the patients who need blood in our community. Below is a collection of patient stories that may be helpful at your blood drive. Please feel free to share these inspiring stories of survivors thanks to LifeSouth blood donors. These are the people that receive LifeSouth blood donations. These people are AMAZING. Our motto is connecting our donors to our patients. We understand that when our donors donate, they give so that others may live. Every time you donate blood, you are saving someone’s life. We hope you will join us and donate for the patients in your community that need the lifesaving gift of blood.
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Amazing People Saved By You
Mary Beth Christopher
As Allison Christopher of Cumming, Georgia cradles baby daughter Mary Beth in her arms, she knows that blood donors have given her tiny bundle a fighting chance.
“I never in my wildest dreams would have thought she would need a liter of blood within two days of life,” Allison said.
And that was just the start. Mary Beth is child number five; she joined big sisters Savannah Jane and Madilyn and brothers Dakota and Hunter. Early in her pregnancy, Allison knew Mary Beth would be facing special challenges.
“All of the rest of them are heart healthy. I had no idea about congenital heart disease until I was pregnant with Mary Beth,” she said.
At 4 months old, Mary Beth had her first open heart surgery and is facing another. In non-technical terms, she was born with a whole heart, but only half of it is functioning. Before the surgery even started, blood donors were already there for Mary Beth.
“They told me they had blood with her name on it, ready to go,” Allison said.
After that there were more transfusions of red blood cells, plasma and platelets. The family, and lots of blood donors who don’t even know her, are pulling for her.
“If you think my hands are full, you should see my heart,” Allison said.
Rachelle “Shell” Spiers
As Rachelle “Shell” Spiers was walking into the supermarket and saw the LifeSouth bloodmobile, donating wasn’t really on her mind. She just wanted to say hello and say thanks.
But then she got a surprise.
Spiers didn’t think she was able to donate blood because on March 9, 2013 she was in a serious motorcycle accident where she lost her right leg below the knee, and she needed several transfusions to survive. She remembers waking up and seeing her family in the Huntsville Hospital Surgical ICU and spying a bag of blood next to her bed. “This is your 14th unit,” the nurse explained.
Spiers said she was riding on a back road near Guntersville, Ala. when she was T-boned by a truck. Fortunately, a volunteer firefighter paramedic was just minutes away, who rushed her to the hospital after she lost a lot of blood. Her parents and two daughters were told her survival was in doubt.
But the former motorcycle racer fought back through eight major surgeries. She began learning to walk again with her first artificial leg she dubbed “The Brick,” graduating from walker to crutches to cane, and she was back to work in just nine months.
She now has a high-tech titanium leg for general purposes, complete with painted red toenails. She calls it Meme, “because it’s part of me.” She also has a carbon-fiber running blade she calls Speedy Gonzales and is gaining strength and distance in area road races. She has even taken a slow easy ride to church on her motorcycle.
Because of all the transfusions, the former blood donor didn’t think giving again was a possibility. But for those who are otherwise healthy and are year out from a transfusion, donation is permitted. So, she accepted that invitation in the supermarket parking lot and climbed aboard the bloodmobile.
“It felt amazing that I could give back, that I could be a part of that,” she said.
It was also a chance to reflect on the times she had donated in the past and about all those whom she’ll never meet who were there for her.
“Never, never in this lifetime did I think this would happen to me. I just thought I’d help someone else,” she said. “Every single day I’m just so thankful. It’s a gift. How do you put it into words to say thank you? I wouldn’t be here without those donors.”
Sydney, 10, was diagnosed with aplastic anemia. After being in the ICU and receiving blood transfusions at Huntsville Hospital, doctors discovered that she has fanconi anemia, a rare genetic disorder. She has been referred to the University of Minnesota where there are experts in the field. Sydney and her family will be traveling to Minnesota until she receives the appropriate treatments and is able to return home.
Selvarajah spent the first 12 years of his Navy career as an enlisted man. He was a First Class Petty Officer Hospital Corpsman who spent many years working in blood bank laboratories and recruiting blood donors. Blood donation is a good and easy way to save a life, but for Ensign Kamalan Selvarajah, donating blood is a reason to celebrate. Selvarajah is a long-time donor, but in 2007 he was the one needing a transfusion.
“I never expected to be on the receiving end,” Selvarajah said.
He was riding his motorcycle home following a football game when a drunk driver turned into his path. He crashed to avoid the collision and fractured his skull in nine places. Surgery, two units of blood and two weeks in the hospital helped save his life. The accident occurred just a few weeks after Selvarajah had received his commission as an officer following graduation from ROTC at the University of Florida. He was waiting to depart for Flight Officer school to become a navigator.
He spent his recovery time at UF, assigned to the ROTC unit on campus. However, the crash left him with double vision, so his hopes of flying were unfortunately gone. Instead he opted for a new career with the Medical Service Corps as a health care administrator.
“I’m very lucky to be alive. I’m lucky to have lots of options,” he said, “After receiving blood, it encourages me even more to give. It’s a very easy thing to do, and it’s quick.”
Samuel Rivers gets a special feeling whenever he sees a LifeSouth bloodmobile.
“I’m grateful. I’m happy to see them out there working,” he said. “I try to get everybody in my family to donate, and my friends.”
Rivers is 40. He was born with sickle cell disease, and transfusions are a way of life in coping with the hereditary condition. Healthy people have disc-shaped red blood cells that carry oxygen to the body, but patients with sickle cell have crescent-shaped red cells. These cells don’t work as efficiently or live as long as typical red cells and have difficulty passing through tiny blood vessels.
For the past 13 years, Rivers has received a transfusion every four weeks, and more times than he can count, that blood has come from a LifeSouth donor. Without them, he says, he never would have reached his 40th birthday.
“I know I wouldn’t have. I probably wouldn’t be a father. I wouldn’t be able to raise my son,” he said.
Through a special program called Sickle Cell Heroes, LifeSouth looks for these donors whose special blood type causes fewer complications for sickle cell patients and others who receive numerous transfusions. Simply by donating, a person can find out if they are in this special category. While he has never gotten to meet those who have helped him, he does know what he would say.
“Thank you – without you, my life would be totally different,” he said.
Hunter, 21, started training to become an emergency medical technician, and two days later he was a patient in the emergency room of Thomas Hospital.
“He had leg cramps so bad he couldn’t walk,” explained his father Kevin Lanford.
The family was shocked and stunned to learn Hunter had leukemia. Kevin said by the second day in the hospital, Hunter had received his first blood transfusion, and during his three-week stay, received five. For Kevin, who donated blood many times over the years, it was a wake-up call.
“That day it became very personal to me and my family,” Kevin said.
So, when friends started asking, “What can we do to help?” the Lanford family’s answer was, “Donate blood.”
Hunter continues to battle cancer. He’s looking and feeling better and taking chemotherapy.
“His doctors said as long as it keeps working and the cancer doesn’t out-smart it, we’re good,” said his dad.
Hunter’s family and friends have donated more than 100 units of blood in honor of Hunter. That’s good for him and the communities of Coastal Alabama, since Hunter only needed five of them.
“That’s 95 or more people who got help because they gave blood for me,” Hunter said.
For Charlet Harrison and daughter Jaimonee Hagins, living with sickle cell disease is just part of life, and blood donors are a true lifeline. Unlike round, healthy oxygen-carrying red blood cells, people with the condition have sickle-shaped red blood cells that are short-lived. This can cause painful and life-threatening complications such as strokes and seizures when they clog tiny
blood vessels. Blood transfusions are a commonly used treatment. For some patients, a bone marrow transplant offers hope for a cure.
“There have been times that blood donors have saved our lives. I don’t think people know how important that is,” Harrison said.
Eddie Adams is a regular LifeSouth platelet donor who says he will do whatever he can to help. But he never expected that by giving, he would save his own life.
In April 2013, Adams walked into LifeSouth’s Opelika, Ala. donor center. As he was answering the questions for his pre-donation physical, the first question about feeling healthy and well gave him cause to consider.
“My chest is hurtin’ a bit. I’ve got heartburn. I think my wife’s cooking is killing me,” was his reply.
So, instead of donating, we suggested he go next door to East Alabama Medical Center and get checked out.
“I walked into the emergency room and I failed every test they gave,” Adams said. “Two days later they did quadruple bypass surgery.”
Doctors discovered that his main heart artery was 99 percent blocked, another was 98 percent blocked, a third was 77 percent blocked, and a fourth was 65 percent blocked.
“They told me I was within four hours of having a massive heart attack,” he said. “The good Lord put me in the right place. LifeSouth was a lifesaver for me. I didn’t know I was having any problem.”
After surgery, he was required to stop donating for a year, but then he was right back in the donor chair.
“The little bitty couple of hours I have to go through is just a drop in the bucket compared to what the patients who need it go through,” Adams said.
“This is what we’re supposed to do – help our fellow man.”
Ayden Henke is only 4 years old. Doctors found cancerous tumors in his brain, and within a month they had left him blind. For treatment, he made frequent trips to receive chemotherapy, and that’s when his mom got a surprise. Tiffany said she noticed that many of the kids were getting transfusions of platelets and red blood cells.
“The amount of blood these kids get blows me away,” she said. “I’ve seen kids go through five and six bags at a time.”
Tiffany said until walking into that clinic, she never understood the connection between blood and platelet donors and cancer patients. Ayden’s family has hosted four blood drives with LifeSouth, knowing it will help the kids he’s gotten to know in treatment. And for those who donate, Tiffany has a message.
“I would tell them how thankful the kids and the parents are because they truly give life to people. Without them these children wouldn’t live,” she said.
As for Ayden, he’s continuing to battle cancer, and doctors have seen some shrinkage in the tumors. He’s adapting well to his loss of sight. He listens to his favorite music and TV shows, is learning to navigate with a cane and how to read and type Braille.
“He’s learning to master being blind 100 percent,” said Tiffany.
When John and Caroline Kelley of Florence, Ala. welcomed the birth of their son Cole, they’d never heard of Diamond-Blackfan anemia, but today they’re intimately familiar with the rare blood disorder and the importance of blood donation.
When Cole was 2 months old he was diagnosed with the condition. While people with healthy bone marrow produce the blood they need, Cole’s marrow doesn’t produce the vital red blood cells to carry oxygen to his body. To survive, he gets red blood cell transfusions every three weeks at the St. Jude Clinic inside Huntsville Hospital.
Caroline said before she saw the impact on her son, she and John weren’t blood donors. Now they’re both donors and advocates, and it’s a topic that comes up frequently with friends.
“If they tell me they’re afraid of needles, I tell them, ‘Do you know what Cole has to do?’” she said.
For more than two years countless blood donors have helped Cole to survive to be a healthy, active little boy who loves anything involving a ball and who has seen the movie “How to Train Your Dragon” at least 100 times. Caroline said, in an effort to reduce the reactions from transfusions, LifeSouth has five directed donors who give just for Cole, but others occasionally need to fill in.
Cole has a surgically implanted port on this chest – he calls it Buddy – that allows him to get the transfusions without another needle stick. Each session takes about four hours, and he plays with cars and dinosaurs and other toys and watches movies. Caroline says she is thankful for all who give and she believes if others could just see the impact of those transfusions, her mission of convincing people to donate blood would be easier.
“They are literally saving someone’s life,” she said. “I want everyone to know to give blood.”
Without the help of blood donors, Tray Williams wouldn’t be alive today. A blood donor himself, he understands first-hand the power of donation.
“There’s really no reason not to give. Just a few minutes of your time could save somebody’s life. I think everybody has a few minutes to spare,” he said.
One night while Williams was driving he blew a tire, crossed a ditch and flew into the air. He hit a telephone pole, throwing him through the sun roof. He had a lengthy list of broken bones and serious internal injuries.
He received more than 40 units of blood. He spent 17 days in a medically-induced coma, 20 days in the hospital and nearly a year recovering.
He understands that it was blood donors he never met or got to thank who helped save his life.
“Are you living or are you existing?” asks Tina Kay. This is one of her favorite quotes because Sickle Cell Disease is attacking her body and mind. Many days she feels she is just here existing. She feels that the disease is like a terrorist in her body waging a war and she has no defense to stop it. Thankfully, she has blood donors. The most common treatment for patients with complications from Sickle Cell is blood transfusions. Tina hopes our community will put this disease on the radar to find a cure. “Life is so precious and taken for granted until something in life causes you to pause and take account of what is really important,” says Tina.
Shayla had never been sick. When she was three, her mother tookher to the emergency room for what seemed to be pneumonia. Her symptoms became worse and after more tests they learned Shayla had a cancerous brain tumor and other tumors down her spine. She also learned that blood was an important part of Shayla’s fight against the disease. Shayla lost her fight against cancer on Nov. 13, 2010. When people ask what they can do in Shayla’s memory, Misty says to donate blood. “I didn’t know cancer patients often need blood,” said Miller. “I didn’t know she would need it.”
Marina Peed says she wishes there was a stronger expression of gratitude than “thank you” to express her feelings for blood donors.
“They are giving me time with my family. They’ve given me time to find a cure,” she said. “It’s an amazing way to pay it forward.”
A mother of two teenagers, Peed is a former LifeSouth blood donor who is battling a rare blood disease and now receives regular blood transfusions. Growing up, she associated blood donation with helping accident victims or those undergoing surgery.
“It never occurred to me that there were chronic blood cancers where people would need blood regularly to survive,” she said.
She says she’s thankful that she was able to give blood when she had the chance.
“I tear up every time I get a transfusion,” she said. “It’s really humbling, and I’m so full of gratitude. It reminds me of how interdependent we all are.”
Ariel Khandadash is honored that people donate for him. He said he was touched when he saw his picture on the poster for a blood drive, a photo taken while he was receiving chemotherapy for Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a form of cancer.
“It was very uplifting that I have so many friends and family members who would have a blood drive in my honor,” he said.
Ariel stated he knows some cancer patients feel they are alone in their battle with the disease, but to that he says, “This is sheer proof that there are people out there looking out for you.”
He has learned first-hand about the connection between blood and platelet donors and cancer patients. Since his treatment began, he has received several units of red blood cells and several units of platelets.
“I really didn’t think cancer patients needed blood,” he admitted.
Cancer patients often need regular transfusions of platelets. Consider donating platelets to help save patients like Ariel.
Kevin has a rare genetic blood disorder, Beta-thalassemia, which reduces the production of hemoglobin that carries oxygen to the body. Regular transfusions are the treatment. So every three or four weeks Kevin travels to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta where he receives four units of red blood cells. LifeSouth supplies blood components to the hospital, and Kevin understands many, many LifeSouth donors have helped him.
Kyle Brady died in 2004 just shy of his 2nd birthday. He inspires others to save lives. Each year his folks, Mike and Marla, host a blood drive in his memory. 380 donors have given blood in his name. He was born with Down Syndrome and was diagnosed with leukemia. For nearly six months he battled the disease receiving multiple transfusions of red blood cells, plasma and platelets. “That kept him going. He never would have made it that long without platelets and blood,” said Marla.
Amanda is diagnosed with Aplastic Anemia, a condition where her body’s blood-producing bone marrow has shut down. Her hope for a normal life is a bone marrow transplant. Each year more than 10,000 patients turn to the Be The Match registry in hopes to find a lifesaving match. About 70% are unable to find a match. Please sign up today and join the marrow registry. All it takes is a swab of your mouth and some paperwork. You might be someone’s lifesaving match. Sign up through LifeSouth Community Blood Centers today. “I have lots of family members who want to be tested,” said Amanda’s mother.
Paisley Roberts is a miracle on two legs.
“She’s a running, chatting, playing machine,” Paisley’s mom, Samantha Roberts says.
When she was born, doctors discovered Paisley’s aorta was too narrow, and there was a hole between the chambers of her heart. She was flown by helicopter to the hospital, where she received her first of many blood transfusions. Three weeks later, Paisley had open-heart surgery.
There were complications, including bleeding in her brain. But today, Paisley is back to being a regular toddler, playing and laughing like her friends.
While Steve Roberts, Paisley’s dad, can recall those tough and scary early days with Paisley, what he sees today is no surprise.
“I’m an optimist to a fault. Back then, this is what I thought about – her being a normal kid,” he said.
Even before Paisley’s birth, Steve and Samantha were blood donors. Having seen how Paisley was helped, they’ve kept it up and even recommend it to their friends and family members.
“People asked us, ‘What can we do to help?’ and we tell them you can save a child’s life by donating blood,” Samantha said.
Growing up, Denitura McCalpine learned at an early age why it’s important to donate blood – because blood donors were helping keep two of her family members alive.
McCalpine said she was 18 and still a high school student the first time she climbed aboard a bloodmobile, and it was thoughts of her aunt Debbie Deliford and cousin Quinton Deliford that inspired her.
“They constantly have to go through blood transfusions, so I give for them,” she explained.
Her aunt and cousin both have lupus. She says over the years their health has improved, but whenever she sees the bloodmobile around town, she’s ready to roll up a sleeve.
“I have Type O blood. I’m helping out more than just my aunt and my cousin. Basically it’s me giving something back,” she says.
Tom and Sue Silva have learned a lot from their grandson, Mason.
The Silvas both work for LifeSouth, and the power of donation is part of the company’s DNA. As donors themselves, they have always known it is important.
“It hit home when we started working here,” Tom said.
But then they walked into the hospital, and it hit a little harder. They saw their grandson Mason receiving chemotherapy and numerous blood and platelet transfusions as he battles leukemia.
“We didn’t totally get it before,” added Sue.
Now knowing it’s blood and platelet donors sustaining Mason, and that a stranger in Germany donated marrow for a stem cell transplant, the power of donation is a lot more personal.
Reed was born 3 months premature at 1 pound 6.2 ounces and was rushed immediately to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Huntsville Hospital for Women and Children. There, he had many blood transfusions and surgeries. Tina and her husband Jonathon knew donating blood was important, but Reed’s fight for life brought the message home. Reed lost his battle after 67 days. Now the Putnams hold the Reed Putnam Memorial Blood Drive in Huntsville to commemorate Reed’s birthday. “We wouldn’t have had those 67 days with him. Everyday was a gift that we got to hold him,” says Tina. “You can help babies like Reed by donating blood.”
LifeSouth’s Five Points of Life Foundation teaches young people about the importance of giving. The Guttensohn quintuplets took that message to heart as soon as they turned 16. The brothers Taylor, Parker, Hunter, Tanner and Mason took their seats in the LifeSouth donor chairs for the first time.
When they were born, they were the first-ever all-male quintuplets to survive. All five needed blood transfusions after their birth, and their mother Amy needed a blood transfusion while she was expecting.
Since then the whole family has been advocates for blood donation.
Their father Eric remembers donating and learning that his blood was fine for adults, but not babies. “Somebody I didn’t even know had to step up to save my children,” Eric said.
While they were a little nervous, Mason remembers seeing his dad come home many times with the blood donor bandage. “I knew it was survivable,” he said. “I knew that other people needed blood more than I did at that moment.”
Amy could see they had learned the importance of giving. “I was very proud they were so willing to do it,” she said.
Nick and his wife Shelsie noticed Kaedyn’s cheeks seemed swollen and he seemed irritable. Initially he was diagnosed with mumps, but was later found to have leukemia. At Shands, he received transfusions of red blood cells and platelets. “The blood he used was donated before he even got to the hospital. Donating is a good thing all around,” said Nick.
Hunter Turner was born 13 weeks premature and weighed less than two pounds. The impact of complications from that early arrival has left him unable to walk, so he travels by motorized wheelchair. He has limited use of his left hand, so he types one handed, and he is blind in his left eye. In addition, as a child he survived a lengthy battle with leukemia. “I am so glad people want to help out.” said Turner. “I didn’t want it to be about me. If I can help out others, that’s great. I just want to make a difference for somebody.
Thanksgiving at the Deal home in 2011 had all the trimmings – turkey, cornbread dressing, a little bit of the family’s traditional barbecue and, of course, pecan pie – but nobody really remembers the meal. Instead they remember how close they came to tragedy and how thankful they are every year since for the outcome.
It was early afternoon, after the big meal, when the Deal children, Bailee and Halee, took the ATV out for a ride on the family property. The 1,600-pound machine flipped, coming to rest on top of little Halee. Bailee was thrown off, got free and ran for help.
“She was blue and she wasn’t breathing,” said mom, Kayla.
Halee was rushed by ambulance to the hospital, where she was stabilized and then transferred by helicopter to a different hospital.
“We were told they didn’t expect her to survive the night,” Kayla said.
Her injuries included six broken ribs, a collapsed lung, her pelvis was broken in many places, and she had a lacerated liver. An excellent team of doctors and nurses provided care, and more than a dozen blood donors supplied the blood components that helped her live to fight another day.
Kayla and her husband Derrick were both blood donors before the accident, which served as a reminder of how important it is to donate before there’s an emergency, so that blood is available immediately.
“Everybody should donate, it could be your child who needs the blood,” Kayla recommended.
Hailey was diagnosed with Leukemia when she was only 4 years old. She needed blood transfusions constantly to keep her body healthy while going through chemotherapy.
Devon was in middle school when she was diagnosed with leukemia. By the time she became a sophomore in high school she needed a marrow transplant. As an African American she faced an uphill battle due to the scarcity of minority donors that volunteer to join the national marrow registry. Fortunately, she was able to find a cord blood donation that was her match. Cord blood is an alternative to a marrow transplant. Today, Devon is cancer free. “I definitely would like to thank the mother and child that donated cord blood,” said Vickers.
Deniyah is one of about 70,000 Americans who have sickle cell disease. It’s one of the most common genetic diseases and occurs in one of every 500 African American births. “I pray a lot for the people who give blood. I’m grateful, without them she would be suffering in pain,” says her mother, Tameka Hagins.
Scott Christmas is an Ironman athlete who survived a plane crash while losing his best friend in the process. He was given less than a 3% chance to live but thanks to 53 blood donors Scott is alive today and training for another Ironman competition. Scott thanks LifeSouth and all the anonymous blood donors by riding his bike in charity events and speaking about his story. He is most thankful for the chance to raise his wonderful daughter and teach her how to turn a sad story into something positive
Jeff and Brooke Walker need only to look at their active twin daughters to get a full appreciation of the power of blood donation.
Brooke had experienced a completely normal pregnancy until it came time for their birth. By the end of that day, Brooke needed six units of blood, the oldest twin Bailey needed two units of blood, while her smaller little sister Brenna needed a single unit.
“It’s just amazing how things can change so quickly,” said Brooke.
Brooke and Jeff were both blood donors even before that day. “It hits closer to home now. I wouldn’t have all three of them with me today,” Jeff said. “When I pray, I think about how blessed we are and how lucky we are,” added Brooke, who says she sees donation as “our best chance to pay it forward.”
Chaysen was killed in a March 3rd traffic accident near Scant City. His mother, Crystal Garner, described him as a very active boy who loved to ride his bike and, at 4, had already mastered riding without training wheels. She said he loved his brothers and sister, Grayden, 10, Nait, 4, and Anna, 5, and one of his favorite things to do was to imitate his favorite TV show, “Lizard Lick Towing,” using walkie-talkies to dispatch his siblings on pretend towing jobs.
Garner is a 911 dispatcher for Marshall County. She said she thought a blood drive was a good way to honor Chaysen and help the community.
“I just wanted to do something to help others, that’s my heart,” she said. “There’s tragedy every day, I know that first-hand from the job I do.”