Stephanie MacWilliams didn’t think much about blood donation until she woke up one day in the intensive care unit from complications during a C-section.
“This is my first major health crisis. I have not needed blood before,” the Langley resident said. “I’ve always known there was a need of blood and how important it can be, however I never expected that I would need it. I honestly didn’t go out of my way to donate blood and found the calls from Canadian Blood Services pestering. But I’m so happy that they have pestered people because those people helped save my life.”
Now she’s helping Canadian Blood Services spread the word about why blood donation is important and will take part in the annual Sirens for Life blood drive, which sees emergency service personnel roll up their sleeves to help promote the need for donors.
“I have given blood once before for a fundraiser. I will strive to donate regularly now,” she said.
MacWilliams was scheduled to have a C-section on July 12, 2016, but on July 8, the Langley woman went into labour. Still all seemed in hand.
“This was my second labour and I felt more prepared for this baby. I enjoyed a nice shower preparing myself for surgery using a special sterilizing soap, my daughter was picked up, and my husband and I calmly made our way to Langley Memorial Hospital,” MacWiliams said. “I was excited for our new arrival and a little anxious knowing that I would be going into surgery. I did not realize I would have to labour all day, and that it would turn into an emergency c-section. During the delivery, I experienced extensive complications.”
She had a hysterectomy. Her bladder was cut, her ureter severed and her external iliac artery severed.
“I woke up Sunday morning in ICU,” MacWilliams said. “I had no idea where I was, why I was there, and why I was intubated. I learned of the complications and that I was lucky to have my left arm, lucky to have my right leg, lucky to have all my brain function, and lucky to be alive.”
She’s since come to learn just how many different ways blood products can be used in medicine.
While at Langley Memorial, she received six units of red blood cells. She was transferred to Royal Columbian where she was given another 20 units of red blood cells along with three units of platelets, 12 units of plasma and two treatments of cryoprecipitate AHF (special bleeding and clotting components) pooled from 22 units of blood.
“I’ve never assumed the donations were wasted, but I also never realized how much could be used on just one person,” she commented.
MacWilliams and her husband, Jordan, are both Vancouver Police officers, and were already the parents of a toddler, Taylor, when she had this health crisis.
“I am very lucky to have walked away from this event with what appears to be no long term issues that will affect my work,” she said. “The artery collapsed while they were pumping products into it. The medical team had to switch to my carotid artery in my neck. My left arm was immensely swollen and purple. They were not able to use my left arm for the remainder of my hospital stay and further afterwards.”
After a week in ICU, she was transferred to the maternity ward so she and her new baby, Paige, could be together.
Then began months of treatments for the young mother.
“The doctors were unable to reattach the ureter to my bladder once the artery had been cut, therefore, I spent three months with a neuphrostomy bag which drained my kidney into an external bag. I had to wait three months for my body to heal before I could undergo another surgery to have it fixed. During the wait, I endured several kidney infections which led to daily IV treatment at the hospital. In October, I under went a second abdominal surgery to re-implant my ureter. It was successful. I had another small external bag still attached to me while the ureter healed. After a couple more infections, I was healed in December.”
MacWilliams and Paige will be at Sirens for Life on Aug. 30 at the Oak Street blood donor clinic in Vancouver.
There are also mobile clinics throughout the Lower Mainland, including one that runs 1 to 8 p.m. today (Aug. 22) at the Church of the Valley, 23589 Old Yale Rd.
The closest bricks and mortar clinic is at 15285 101 Ave. in Surrey.
There are mobile clinics:
• Aug. 26, Aldergrove Kinsmen Community Centre, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (and Oct. 21)
• Sept. 24, Cloverdale Catholic Parish, 17475 59th Ave., 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
• Sept. 30, Walnut Grove Lutheran Church, 20530 – 88 Ave., 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
• Oct. 15, Ron Dunkley Memorial at the Langley City Fire Rescue hall, 5785 203rd St., 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Canadian Blood Services is also asking the general public to donate. It is looking to fill 25,000 appointments before Labour Day.
“We anticipated a drop in blood donations during the summer months as a result of holidays, changes in routines, travel and family activities. The Labour Day long weekend is particularly challenging as families spend time wrapping up the summer before transitioning into the back to school period,” said Mark Donnison, vice president, donor relations.
To find out more about donation and how blood donations are used or to book an appointment, people can use the Canadian Blood Services app called GiveBlood or go to blood.ca.
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