"If one person is moved to donate blood by my experience, then it wasn’t all for naught.” –Brynn-Ashley Soderlind
Blood is important to Brynn’s family. When her sister battled metastatic breast cancer, blood transfusions helped her recover from chemotherapy and extend her life. When Brynn’s mother was diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer, three units of blood helped her undergo a 10-hour surgery.
“We moved up to Duluth in 2015 because my sister, who had already been diagnosed with cancer, liked to visit the North Shore. She found the lake incredibly healing,” said Brynn. “After several extended visits, we realized my sister was getting excellent health care at the clinics up here, and decided to make the move to be closer to family—and closer to the lake.”
Watching the women in her family ride a healthcare rollercoaster, Brynn decided to be proactive about her health. She scheduled a preventative hysterectomy, and was considered an excellent candidate for the procedure.
Though some surgeries are routine and uneventful, Brynn’s was not. Due to unforeseen circumstances, the initial incision of her laparoscopic surgery accidentally hit her aorta, and she started to bleed. A lot. Fortunately, the anesthesiology nurse—who had assisted with the delivery of one of her children several years earlier—noticed the drop in Brynn’s blood pressure immediately, and the team brought on three surgeons to help stop the bleeding.
“It took more than three hours to get me stabilized,” Brynn said. "I lost more than two liters of blood. The doctors gave me six units of red blood cells, three units of plasma, two units of platelets, and two units of cryoprecipitate. Once I was awake from the surgery and stable, I told my husband I wanted to use social media to make a plea for blood donations, since blood was the reason I made it through the surgery.”
That realization hit Brynn hard. “I was told many times that it was serendipitous for the hospital to have that many units of blood on hand—and the surgeons available. I am alive today because people—complete strangers—took time out of their day for whatever reason to go donate blood. It saved my life.”
Now recovered from the incident, Brynn is confident about life, and an advocate for blood donation. “I just got a text message from a friend in the Cities who donated blood. She said ‘This is for you, Brynn!’ Since my accident, some of my friends have set up blood drives at their workplace, or have donated blood for their first time.”
“One in three people will need blood in their life,” Brynn said. “I never thought it would be me. The need affects all of us.”
Though accidents are unfair and unexpected, Brynn sees the silver lining in her experience. “Some days I sit back and wonder if this is something that helped me help others,” she said. “Some people don’t feel compelled to donate blood unless there’s a big tragedy in the news. I don’t think people are aware of how crucial Memorial Blood Centers is in providing blood to the community.”
This summer, Brynn has plans to visit the friends and family who have helped further the cause of blood donation. She also plans to enjoy every day she has ahead of her by hiking, spending time with her 2 and 5 year old kids, and visiting her favorite spot in Duluth: the shore of Lake Superior.
“In the last year, I learned so much about what blood donation means to my family, to me personally, and how it sustains lives. We got my sister for another three months because of it. Hopefully it sustained my life for a long time. It helped my mom get through a long surgery. There’s something there for me that’s guiding me, and I think it’s blood. There’s always a silver lining in tragedy, and this is it for me: that strangers would give life for someone else. On the days when I feel sad or have pain, I think of that.”