As Emily Peters prepared for the arrival of her new baby girl, with a dreamy nursery, teeny-tiny outfits and an overnight bag packed for the hospital, Kathy Schutt took two hours out of her day to donate blood.
These strangers-turned-friends will forever be bonded by Kathy’s lifesaving gift. On August 2, 2016, moments after giving birth to her precious daughter Lucy, Emily experienced severe postpartum hemorrhage and nearly bled to death in the delivery room of a San Francisco, California hospital. Saving Emily required 32 units of blood - or more than three times the total amount of blood in her body.
Without the gift of blood from Kathy and 31 other anonymous donors, Emily would not have survived.
“For me, donating blood is a way of life, and to know it helped Emily and her family is amazing,” Kathy says. “It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.”
Kathy is one of millions of donors who will be celebrated on June 14 during World Blood Donor Day. More than 117 million blood donations are collected each year globally1, and the annual day of recognition raises awareness as to the importance of regular donation.
Thanks to this gift of blood, Emily is present for each sweet moment with 3-year-old Lucy, playing in the park, reading stories, riding bikes and snuggling at bedtime. This curious kiddo with two tiny ponytails and nine imaginary dogs loves rocks, plants and animals, and, most of all, spending time with mom and dad.
“If it wasn’t for the blood donors, I wouldn’t be here for her,” Emily says.
After several years of infertility, Emily, the founder of a healthcare brand agency, and her husband, Rob, were elated at the prospect of bringing Lucy into the world. After a blissful pregnancy, the couple, along with Emily’s sister, prepared for the birth, decorating the hospital room with Lucy’s going-home outfit, twinkly lights and other soothing decor. They even stocked the mini-freezer with ice cream to celebrate after the birth.
Labor was normal, and Emily recalls the moment she laid eyes on her baby girl.
“I remember the doctor saying that she was great. And then I remember people running around and yelling orders as I was coming in and out of consciousness.”
While it’s not clear exactly what went wrong, Emily came close to bleeding to death. She woke up the next day in intensive care, after massive blood transfusions, undergoing a procedure to stop the bleeding and being placed in an induced coma and on a ventilator. Fortunately, the hospital was well prepared for emergencies, and there was no shortage of blood available to save her life.
Emily is comforted by the fact that all 32 units of donated blood had been tested, ensuring their safety. “I've had no negative effects from the blood transfusions or from my blood loss. It's pretty amazing.”
As she made a strong and speedy recovery, Emily was profoundly grateful for the actions of the 32 anonymous men and women who had saved her life. “I felt such affinity for my blood donors.”
She reached out to the blood bank that supplied the blood, and asked if it might be possible to meet her donors.
After a year of securing permissions, Emily and her family threw an emotional thank-you party at the hospital. In attendance were six of her donors - Kathy and her family among them - along with medical professionals who saved her life.
“Thank you for the blood, thank you for my life,” Emily, now a regular blood donor, tearfully told the donors at the celebration.
”It was so beautiful to be able to thank them.”
Kathy, who works in the boating industry, was raised understanding the importance of blood donation.
“My parents were blood donors, and it was something they always talked to us three kids about,” she says. Kathy’s family members were all O-negative, the universal blood type that is critically important, as it can be used for emergency transfusions when the blood type of the patient is unknown or unavailable. This was the case for Emily, who has A-negative blood.
“Being able to donate is really cool, and finding out about Emily’s story was amazing,” says Kathy, who was thrilled to learn that her blood helped save Emily. “When I heard her story, it made me grab my daughter, and hold on tight. We were so happy to meet Emily and Lucy. We just love them.”
Emily’s story inspires Kathy to donate as often as she can.
“It's something so simple,” says Kathy, who has continued to donate blood during the COVID-19 pandemic. “People ask me why I donate. It's my community service. It was 32 people going out of their way just for two hours to help save somebody else's life that day. You can make a difference.”
Hear more from Emily about her medical journey and the importance of blood donation:
1. World Health Organization, Blood safety and availability [Internet; cited 2020 June 5].