*TW: blood, NDE
January is National Blood Donor’s Month, a long-running tradition since 1970. The initiative is not only to celebrate the achievements of current donors but to encourage new potential candidates to roll up their sleeves and donate.
Giving blood can be an easily forgotten chore for some people. It may seem insignificant, like just another task in an already very busy day. Others may fear needles and worry that they’ll faint at the sight of blood.
But there is a great reason to give and we’ve all heard it before—you can absolutely save lives with your donation. If you think that there are ample volunteers to accommodate the need, you may be surprised to know that donations are needed now more than ever. According to America’s Blood Centers, only 3% of able-bodied people donate.
That’s why donating is so important to Toni, a Still I Run Ambassador for 2024. She wants to tell her story about how she donates as often as possible and how she didn’t realize the importance until she needed transfusions herself.
Back in July 2020, Toni was out late, filling her car up with gas and minding her business at the pump. It was a typical night returning from home, nothing out of the ordinary except the particularly humid weather. She was met with a sudden turn of events when a wild-eyed teenager approached and, without any hesitation, punched her in the head while shouting gibberish and flailing wildly. The fifteen-year-old was on a heavy LSD trip, she later learned.
Toni says when she attempted to remove herself from the situation and flee, the teenager pulled a knife and stabbed Toni in the back. The damage was extensive; a punctured lung and diaphragm along with a lacerated liver. She remembers when she was on the concrete she thought about how easily life can be taken away.
“I couldn’t believe I was going to die on a random Tuesday,” she said. “When they say that you have to live each day like it may be the last, there’s a reason.”
Thankfully, a bystander called an ambulance and Toni was rushed to the local trauma center. “I remember the ride in the ambulance and watching the EMT do her thing. I was in shock and thought about how gracefully she worked. I watched her set up blood bags and all these wires. Like she does this all the time, it was amazing.”
Toni received multiple units of blood. She says that the sight of the bags hanging there was surreal. She had only witnessed them within donation centers, sitting idly and waiting to be shipped. She never thought she’d have to see them live in action.
While recovering in the hospital, she thought about the kindness of donations. Strangers whom she would never meet and who would never know that she needed them. Someone’s donation was now with her and carrying her back to life.
Toni fully recovered from her wounds and was given a clean bill of health. The teenager was sent to a drug recovery program under strict probation. (That child ultimately had a happy ending, attending college and turning their life around. Toni has long forgiven the teen and is thrilled that they’re on the right path).
Toni tried to return to a normal life, but things were different now. She suffered nightmares, flashbacks, and severe anger. She eventually learned why: PTSD. Her diagnosis came within a year and it wasn’t surprising. There was a cloud lingering above her, a memory that refused to go away.
She started therapy and medications, but she also needed a healthier outlet as she noticed she was smoking more cigarettes. “I discovered running. I needed to watch my health now because I received the gift of a longer life and that’s something I couldn’t take for granted.”
Within three years, she quit smoking cigarettes, stopped drinking alcohol, stopped eating meat, and ran. Her first run was only thirty seconds long, leaving her winded but determined. Within six months she ran her first 5k at the Bronx Zoo in NY, raising money for her favorite animal, the sloth.
Now she runs regularly and takes immense pride in her back-of-the-pack stride. She just completed her first 10k and intends on training for a half marathon this year. She also makes sure she has time to donate.
“The donation process is so easy. You’ll be kicking yourself that you didn’t start sooner. You just show up and they do the rest.”
She says that she tries to donate “Super Red” when she can (a process where a candidate can give two transfusions worth), but she gives Whole Blood when she doesn’t have enough time to stay long. Toni is also very proud of her first donation achievement. “I’m a member of the Gallon Club! What that means is I have donated over one Gallon of blood to the NY Blood Center. They sent me a fancy glittery ID card and everything. It’s awesome! Next stop is the Five Gallon Club.”
Why Your Donation Matters:
Toni’s experience is just one of thousands where a blood transfusion is needed. It doesn’t always have to be a traumatic experience like hers. Some diseases require multiple transfusions weekly and can call for hundreds of pints. When people make appointments at blood drives, it’s one more gift of life. It only takes about 30 minutes from beginning to end and you get to leave with a cookie and apple juice! You even get the bonus of knowing you may have saved someone’s life.
Toni says that even though many years have passed since her blood transfusions, she vows to keep donating every chance she gets. “Our bodies make this stuff for free. Let’s take care of each other when we’re able, because one day you may be the one in need. It would be nice to think that someone was there for you.”
Consider donating at your local blood drive or center this month. You never know who you may help.