“I like to tell people I’m the luckiest woman alive! Because of blood donors I’m still a mom, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a teacher, a blood drive coordinator, and now a blood donor.” —Katie Thunshelle, blood recipient

Katie Thunshelle remembers the moment she held her first-born for the very first time. The doctor announced a healthy baby boy and handed him to Katie. Her heart swelled with love, her eyes filled with tears of joy, and she was instantly caught up in a moment of pure bliss. After delivering her second baby boy, Katie remembers that same moment of bliss—her healthy 9-pound, 3-ounce bundle resting in her arms. But in an instant, her tears of joy became tears of pain. And happiness was replaced with anxiety and urgency. Her uterus wasn’t contracting as it should and she had begun to hemorrhage.

Baby Ty was quickly taken from her as doctors turned their attention to Katie. After 90 minutes in the delivery room Katie endured another four hours in the OR and two surgeries, including a D&C (Dilation and Curettage) and an emergency hysterectomy. She also received four units of red blood cells to replace what her body had lost plus two units of plasma. “By this time,” Katie recalls, “all of my clotting factors had been used up. And now, in addition to the original hemorrhage, I was in what seemed to me to be a bleeding free-fall. It was clear that I was in serious trouble and was going to need a lot more blood than my small hospital had available.” Airlifted to a Level II trauma hospital some 80 miles away, Katie received 17 more units of blood as she slowly recovered from the trauma her body had suffered.

Grateful to the excellent doctors who made all the right choices in providing her care, it is generous blood donors that Katie realizes made the life-saving difference. “The most amazing doctors in the world couldn’t have saved me without the volumes of blood that were available because others gave so generously,” Katie says. “In total, I received 23 units of blood—more than twice what the average body holds and enough to fill nearly three one-gallon milk jugs! And what’s really incredible to me is that all of that was made possible by perfect strangers who donated blood not knowing where the blood would end up. It could have gone to a soldier, a car crash victim, a child battling cancer or, in my case, to a new mom fighting the greatest 24-hour battle of her life.”

Nine days after delivering her healthy baby boy, Katie finally arrived home. But it would take nearly one year, including several additional surgeries, before she completely recovered and returned to her rich and full life as a mother, wife, teacher, and friend. And as soon as she could, Katie began to give back. Once she became eligible, she began to donate regularly. She coordinates blood drives at the high school where she teaches. And at every opportunity she shares her story with students and others throughout her community, encouraging everyone who can to take a moment to give blood. “I never donated until I received blood myself because I was always worried about passing out,” Katie says. “Now I realize how trivial that fear is compared to the priceless gift I can give. I know that without strangers giving blood I wouldn’t be here to be a mother to my two boys, Ty and Hunter, and my husband, Beau, would be left without a wife. So my message to others is that blood donors truly save lives. They saved mine. And I encourage others to become life-savers, too.”