The Blood Donors Who Saved Lives

Cassidy Smith and her daughter are living proof that generosity creates miracles

by Elisa Cipollone | Updated 26 Aug 2016 at 9:13 AM

When a new mother’s labor turned into an emergency, 300 people helped save the lives of Cassidy Smith and her newborn daughter. It was Feb. 10, 2012, at Saint Joseph Hospital in Denver — and a night the Smith family and many others will never forget.

Smith was in the early stages of labor when she had a catastrophic amniotic fluid embolism, a condition that causes heart and lung failure, as well as causing blood clotting to cease. Her unborn daughter’s heart stopped as well.

“Issues like Cassidy’s really underscore the need for blood to be ready to go in advance of an emergency.”

“We forget, but it can be dangerous for mothers to have babies,” Joyce Gottesfeld, who worked as an OB/GYN and was on staff at the hospital that night, told The Denver Post. “It looked kind of grim for a while.”

The doctor said she had never heard of “someone getting chest compressions for an hour.”

The grave emergency called for six surgeries and a long series of blood transfusions. A human being has 10 pints of blood at any given moment. To get this mother and child through 48 hours of terror, it took an amazing 270 units of blood or blood products to save their lives.

And perhaps many of those who donated their blood to help others did so as a higher calling — or to give back, or to answer a prayer, or as part of their faith-based life.

During the Bonfils Blood Center banquet at Seawell Ballroom in the Denver Performing Arts Complex on Aug. 18, 2016, Cassidy Smith and her now four-year-old, Anne-Claire Smith, got to meet 29 of their heroes. These individuals’ blood donations saved Smith and her daughter.

Related: An Ultrasound Can Mean Life or Death

Some 200 people attended the event, including many of the staff members who also helped in the Smiths’ recovery.

Those couple of days of crisis called for “every unit of [blood] platelets in the city,” Gottesfeld told The Post.

“Issues like Cassidy’s really underscore that need for blood to be ready to go in advance of an emergency,” Liz Lambert, who is a communications specialist for Bonfils Blood Center, told the publication. “We’ve got a 43-gallon lifetime donor here today, but one of the people here also only made four donations. She helped save Cassidy’s life, too.”

The generosity of others saved the lives of this mother and daughter. Many thousands of people donate blood every day in this country, most of whom will never know the person or people they saved with that precious donation.

“Not only am I alive, but I get to be myself. I get to be a mother to my daughter.”

Because of medical privacy laws, Smith had to initiate this process by going to Bonfils and requesting the information. Then those who donated were contacted — and because they also agreed to release the records, the event became possible.

But for almost all those who donate blood, there will never be an embrace with the person they saved — and surely the 300 people who donated blood for the Smiths never knew that moment of gratitude would come.

But it did — and with it, a beautiful moment that illustrated the power of human generosity.

“For a while I thought: ‘Will it change me in a way? Will I feel different?'” Smith said of her new blood. “Like, my hair felt thicker for a second. But it’s sunk in that it’s such an amazing gift and a miracle that not only am I alive, but I still get to be myself. I get to be a mother to my daughter. I’ve never met any of these people before today, but I think about them all the time.”

(image credits: The Denver Post)

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