Blood donations: New mum ‘forever grateful for life-saving blood I was given’

Summer Elvy’s son was just two weeks old when she started bleeding so heavily that a rescue chopper had to be called to save her life.

The new mum had undergone an emergency caesarean and was warned to watch for post-surgery bleeding but she was still shocked when it happened, and so quickly, at her home in Waiheke last year.

By the time help arrived she was on the floor unable to stand. Her heart was racing, she was nauseous and struggling to see, hear and breathe properly.

“It was very scary, I started to feel quite dizzy and confused … I was scared I was about to die,” the 26-year-old told the Herald.

“I remember them saying to me ‘it’s alright, we will get to the chopper, we have got blood on the chopper’. It was such a relief.”

Elvy, accompanied by her partner Oliver Wilson and their son Elio, were flown to Auckland City Hospital, where she was rushed into recovery and surrounded by doctors and nurses who worked hard to stabilise her.

“It turns out that was the least dramatic part of my journey.”

A week later, while she was receiving a blood transfusion for septicaemia, Elvy suffered a second life-threatening haemorrhage.

“I knew it was bad but one of [the nurses] looked at me and said ‘oh s***’.”

The occupational therapist was rushed into theatre, where it took half an hour to stabilise her enough for surgery.

“I remember the surgeon saying to me ‘you are unwell but you are going to be ok’.

“I felt confident I could get through it. I knew I was in the best place … I was losing a lot of blood but I was getting a lot of blood too.”

Over the course of her treatment in hospital, Elvy needed 6.6 litres of blood – the average human has about 5 litres in their body.

That blood came from 16 different donors – people who literally saved her life.

“I wouldn’t be here without blood donors. I’m eternally grateful for strangers who just gave up an intimate part of themselves to help another person,” she said.

“I appreciate every second with my family. I think I got off so lucky, and I will be forever grateful for the life-saving blood that I was given.”

Today, on World Blood Donor Day, Elvy is pleading for other people to consider becoming a donor, saying you never know when you or someone you love will need help.

“It’s so, so important,” she said. “I definitely would have died [without it].”

Nearly 30,000 New Zealanders need blood every year- that’s roughly one person every 18 minutes – but it’s a constant battle for the NZ Blood Service to keep up with demand.

Asuka Burge, national manager, marketing and communications at New Zealand Blood Service, said less than 4 per cent of eligible adults donate but those who do can save up to three lives with just one donation.

Donated blood can be separated into several components (red blood cells, platelets and plasma) and used to treat different types of patients including burns and accident victims, patients undergoing surgery or transplants and adults and children suffering from leukemia.

Burge said O+ and A+ are the two biggest blood groups in New Zealand. Often people with this blood type think their blood isn’t needed because it’s so common – but the exact opposite was true.

“We need your blood the most.”

The same happens with rare donors who think their blood isn’t needed because there is less demand for it.

However, Burge said all types are needed to not only maintain the donor bank retention rate but also to help build additional supplies.

This appeal they are hoping to attract 30,000 new donors to cover the extra supplies and retention levels.

General surgeon registrar Dr Soana Misiloi applauded those who do give up their time to donate.

“You are a lifeline to so many Kiwis, you play such an important role.”

• For more information about becoming a blood donor download the app, visit nzblood.co.nz or call 0800 448 325 (0800 GIVE BLOOD) to book an appointment to donate

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