How a Blood Donor Saved My Life

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by Lara Govendo |

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Hearing the words “blood transfusion” still sends chills down my spine.

The emotional response my entire body felt when I heard those words for the first time from a doctor is still traumatic. “I wasn’t supposed to get one of these,” I thought. I had just had a double-lung transplant a year earlier, and this type of treatment could cause rejection in organ transplantation.

When it comes to life and death matters, calculated risks are unavoidable. This situation solicited such a choice.

January is National Blood Donor Month. Hopefully, sharing my story will prompt a call to action for those able to donate blood. For those of us who have been on the receiving end of a donation, we know how lifesaving donors are. We wouldn’t be here to tell our stories without them and their selfless decisions.

***

Details about gynecologic hemorrhaging are cringeworthy. I had gone to the emergency room on Christmas Eve. By the time I left, it was after 11 p.m.

A doctor had given me a prescription to “stop the bleeding if it continued,” but he didn’t take into account that the next day was Christmas, and pharmacies were closed. The bleeding didn’t stop — it only got worse.

Then I passed a massive blood clot the size of a tennis ball, which nearly knocked me out. That sent me back to the emergency room the day after Christmas. By that point, my worst fear had come true: I needed a blood transfusion.

I told doctors on Christmas Eve that I had to avoid one at all costs, but my words fell on deaf ears. Our healthcare system is reactive, not proactive. Nobody had listened when I said I needed an intervention immediately. Doctors said they would only intervene when my blood levels dropped to a dangerous level. And that’s exactly what happened.

“Breathe through the pain. Breathe through the fear. You can handle this, Lara,” I whispered through excruciating pain, as I felt blood gushing out of me. I was terrified. These were uncharted waters. The hematologist looked me square in the eye and said, “I know this is scary, but you’ve been through worse, Lara. You can get through this, too.”

This brought peace, and valiance seeped back into my being.

***

Now we didn’t have time to think about a decision. I was half listening to the details of how they would extract white blood cells from the blood to prevent the risk of rejecting my new lungs. But doesn’t everything have a risk in this life? I was losing blood at an alarming rate.

My sister rushed to my rescue. I told my parents I would be fine, but they never listen, thankfully. They live five hours away, but before I knew it, they were by my side. My best friend arrived to spend the night. Surrounded by my support squad, I knew I could do anything.

The side effects of anemia were hitting me hard. I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I was extremely nauseous and dizzy, as if I had just stepped off a merry-go-round.

I fell asleep in the middle of a conversation, due to anemia. (Courtesy of Lara Govendo)

Eventually, we figured out that a bad interaction with medication and the trauma of transplant had caused the hemorrhage. Noninvasive interventions were conducted to stop the bleeding. By the grace of God, it stopped before more drastic measures were needed.

I had three blood transfusions that night. As I watched the blood drip into my port, I couldn’t help but be grateful. People that have made the conscious choice to donate their blood really do make a difference. I witnessed this personally, and I understood how precious blood is.

Blood donors saved my life. They are unsung heroes. During that particular hospitalization, a dear friend posted that she was donating blood in my honor.

My incredibly humble dad has donated blood every few months for years. He was proud to tell me that he has reached 10 gallons of donated blood, and he doesn’t plan to stop anytime soon. No one knows this about him, but I think everyone needs to.

It brought me to tears knowing how happy he is to do his part to help others so selflessly. Imagine what the world could accomplish if we all had that kind of a heart.

Education and communication help us to recognize the needs of our communities. During this month of awareness, we need to take it a step further and share our stories. Personal testimonies of how blood donors save lives make it real for others.

It can be an easy issue to brush off, because it’s someone else who needs the help. But knowing someone personally who has received blood donations makes a big difference.

So, now you know at least one person who has benefited. Let’s spread the word to help others in need of blood donations, to save their lives, too.

***

Note: Cystic Fibrosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cystic Fibrosis News Today, or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cystic fibrosis.

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