• Carrie Kendon (Sanders)

Thank you Anonymous

When I was pregnant with my second daughter, Clara, I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cervical cancer. I worried about my life and the life of my unborn daughter. Even though we knew the cancer could spread quickly and were given the choice, there was never a doubt for Joe and I that we would continue on with the pregnancy. I was considered high risk, was seen in by a gynecologic-oncologist instead of a normal obstetrician, and my cancer was monitored throughout the pregnancy. Our first goal was a healthy baby, and second a healthy mom; but that is a story for another time.


After monitoring and prayer, it was evident that I would need a hysterectomy so that the cancer could be removed before spreading to other parts of my body. Clara had just turned one nine days prior to surgery and we adored our beautiful family of four.


The surgery went well; however, 24 hours later I started having some complications. I felt as if I couldn't breathe, that something was taking up the space where my lungs would expand. It became obvious that something was very wrong. The doctors decided to rush me in for an emergency surgery to see what was going on. I had some major blood clotting and hemorrhaging. The doctors and nurses worked tirelessly to take out a clot the size of a grapefruit and tied up all the leaks, but I had a lot of blood loss. I was monitored for the next 24 hours; blood pressure, pulse rate, oxygen saturation. With time my body should have produced enough blood to return to normal; however, my blood oxygen saturation level continued to decrease. When I first heard the phrase "blood transfusion" that day I immediately went on the defensive. I was a kid in the '80s when everybody talked about AIDS and needles, and I did not want another person's blood inside me. That, I thought, was a non-negotiable, but I was clinging to life. The cancer didn't kill me, but the after effects of the surgery was trying to.

I was a kid in the '80s when everybody talked about AIDS and needles, and I did not want another person's blood inside me.

One by one doctors, nurses, and maybe even a janitor talked to me about making the choice to have a transfusion. I remember shutting my eyes and begging the Lord to come up with another way to keep me around. I knew people had blood transfusions regularly, but I did not want one! I pondered this decision for hours while I was in a state of relative consciousness. And then, a different nurse came in. She said she understood how I felt because she had a transfusion three years earlier after an accident. She explained that she wouldn't have even been there to help me the previous 48 hours had she not received the transfusion. It was then I realized, if I didn't accept the blood transfusion I might not be there for my daughters in the future. I consented and within minutes I had pints of some stranger's blood pouring into me.

Some strangers blood pouring into me

I felt better almost instantaneously. Within hours I was sitting up, eating a cheeseburger and chatting away with anyone who popped in for a visit. A few days later, I was discharged and Joe drove me home to our two incredible daughters.

I looked back and knew how much different life could have been had I never been pregnant, had Doc D never found the cancer when he did, had I not opted for surgery, had that nurse not eased me with her own story ... But more significantly, I thought about my blood donor for the first time. An anonymous donor one day gave blood not knowing when and who it might help. I gained a new anniversary; the anniversary of the day I was given life by a perfect stranger. Some person in Hawaii, unknown by me, donated O- blood sometime before June 26th of 2010. Anonymous saved my life. That last sentence alone haunts me at times, when I am in a season of selfishness, and it grounds me in an instant. I think about what my daughter's lives would be like if I didn't choose to have the transfusion and I can't help but cry out in thanksgiving for the beautiful gift of life.

God saw fit to save me through someone I will never be able to thank in person and I am forever changed by this overwhelmingly beautiful piece of my story.

Anonymous saved my life.


Final anecdotes: Sometimes, whether by science or coincidence, some receivers actually report getting weird or new traits after a blood transfusion. My donor must not have had a sweet tooth because my love for sugar wasn't present for a few months after my receipt; which is how long they say they say the blood stays in your system.


Also, nine years post hysterectomy we now know that the blood saturation issues actually stemmed from my (unknown at the time) neurological disease and the effects the medication Dilaudid has on people with Intracranial Hypertension and CO2 circulation issues. It's really sciencey and fascinating and obviously scary as hell.


Edited from my article posted first by Armed Services Blood Program and reposted at:

https://allhands.navy.mil/Stories/Display-Story/Article/1839868/donating-blood-really-can-make-the-difference-between-life-and-death

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