I didn’t realize how important blood donation was until my dad got sick and needed it.” 

A family honors husband and father who died from cancer

Throughout his life, Ed Sturm from New Ulm, Minnesota was known for his witty one-liners and his unwavering passion to help others. The 68-year-old served in the US Army, worked for New Ulm Manufacturing and Caterpillar, and later was as a truck driver. Sadly, his life ended following a long battle with cancer in 2020.

Ed Sturm

To honor his legacy of helping others, his wife Jean Sturm and daughter Rachel Sturm hosted an American Red Cross blood drive in his memory. Their family and friends rallied to show support – filling all appointment and collecting 35 pints of lifesaving blood.

Jean and Rachel both donated blood in honor of Ed at the drive. Jean, a regular blood donor, reached her 100th donation milestone! They hope the Ed Sturm Memorial Blood Drive becomes an annual event to help pay it forward and build awareness of the need for blood donations to help treat cancer patients like Ed.

Jean and Rachel Sturm donated at the Ed Sturm Memorial Blood Drive (photo submitted).

“Everyone thought this was a great way to remember him because they knew his long journey and how much he struggled. Blood donation is an easy way for people to help others and give more time to another family going through the same situation,” said his daughter.

Sturm was first diagnosed in November 2012 with multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer that affects plasma cells — crowding out the normal plasma cells that help fight infection. After a stem cell transplant in April 2013, Sturm’s cancer went into remission but returned in 2015. In March of 2019, their worst fear came true when Sturm was diagnosed with another form of cancer – myelodysplastic syndrome – where healthy blood cells die in the bone marrow or just after entering the bloodstream.

From March 2019 through March 2020, while trying to deal with the two different cancers, Sturm was in the emergency room multiple times getting blood transfusions because his hemoglobin dropped to dangerously low levels. But there wasn’t always blood on the shelves when he needed it.

I didn’t realize how important blood donation was until my dad got sick and needed it.”  – Rachel Sturm

His wife, Jean Sturm, recalls writing in his Caring Bridge journal in March 2020 that Ed had to wait for blood when donations declined during the pandemic. He was moved to the University of Minnesota Medical Center to help ensure blood products would be more readily available. “Cancer is a very physically & emotionally draining disease and having to worry about blood availability is just one more burden piled on,” she said.

Ed and Jean Sturm at Glacier National Park

In total, Sturm received 72 units of blood and 41 units of platelets. “These transfusions gave him the strength and endurance to withstand the chemotherapy and gave him more time with us,” said his daughter. “It was eye-opening to us that one person would need so much blood. I didn’t realize how important blood donation was until my dad got sick and needed it.”

Pictured from left to right: Ed Sturm, Rachel Sturm (daughter), Brandon (grandson) and Jean Sturm

Blood and platelets play a critical role in the treatment of cancer and other chronic diseases, as well as traumatic injuries. Patients fighting cancer need more blood than patients fighting any other disease, using nearly one-quarter of the nation’s blood supply. Healthy donors are needed to ensure that patients have lifesaving blood products available for cancer treatment, emergencies and everyday medical treatments. 

To support families affected by cancer and help prevent a blood shortage this summer you can book a time to give. Simply download the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit RedCrossBlood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

Story by Sue Thesenga, American Red Cross. Photos provided by Sturm family.

From my years as a competitive swimmer I knew a tired swimmer was not a good swimmer

By Olivia Wolf

In my nineteen years of life, I had never been scared of drowning. But, I never realized how easily it could happen until this past spring.

I have always loved the water. Growing up, I swam competitively for 10 years and relished anytime I got to jump into a pool, lake or ocean. After the restrictions started to lift towards the beginning of last fall, I decided to rekindle my love of the water and join my university’s surf club at St. Andrews, Scotland. I had never surfed before, but with my long swim history, I figured I would feel close to home in any water sport.

“I have always loved the water.” Olivia, pictured poolside, always was a strong swimmer and was comfortable keeping herself afloat. Submitted photo.

I wasn’t the only one with that idea. Over one hundred other students at my university also had the same idea. So, when I finally snagged an opening on a surfing excursion this past February, I jumped on the opportunity.

The day of the excursion was cold but clear. I biked down to the surf shed and met with everyone else who had also managed to land a surf slot. We changed into thick wetsuits and booties to protect us from the North Sea temperatures, grabbed our boards, and headed towards the sea. Because the sky was clear, I thought that the water would only have two to three-foot swells, but as we walked toward the beach, I could hear the roar of crashing waves. When we finally crested the dunes, we were met with five-foot swells all along the beach. The leader of our surf group saw the nerves on our faces and explained to us that all we had to do was paddle through the rough surf and reach the calm spot beyond the breaking waves. He pointed out to another group of surfers sitting on their boards. We watched as one of them paddled out from this calmer area to the breaking point and caught a wave into shore. At this point, any nerves I had at the prospect of such big swells had turned into excitement at the possibility of catching my first big wave.

At the beginning of the year, we attended surf lessons with the club and were taught how to safely duck under big waves with our boards. This came in handy as we set out into the water. It felt like every 15 seconds, I had to duck under another massive wave. Finally, I made it to the calm water beyond the breaking waves. My arms ached, but I was still excited to try and catch a big wave. I rested for a bit in the calm water, trying to regain my strength. After a while, I spotted a promising wave. I lined myself up and started paddling to try and catch it. Just as I finally felt comfortable enough to try and stand up, my weight shifted, and I tumbled off the board.

“Growing up, I swam competitively for 10 years and relished anytime I got to jump into a pool, lake, or ocean.” Olivia, pictured on the right. Submitted photo.

As soon as I entered the water, I was tossed around like clothes in a washing machine. I didn’t know which I was up or down. When I finally felt the pressure of the wave release, I came up sputtering for air, only to have to duck down again to avoid the next wave crashing right on top of me. I managed to swim to my board and start the long journey of paddling back out beyond the breaking point. It took me twice as long as the first time to reach the calm section of the water and my arms were even more drained. Still I was excited and waited patiently on my board for a second chance at a big wave. I repeated the process, lining up and paddling to try and catch a good wave, and this time I managed to get to my knees before falling off the board. I was immediately shoved under and somersaulted through the water before breaking the surface again. I was able to spot my board but didn’t have time to swim for it before another wave crashed right on top of me. After two more waves passed, I was finally able to grab my board but after being tossed around in the sea I hardly had the energy to do more that hold on to the side of the board and float. At this point, I had a crucial decision to make, try to paddle back out against the harsh waves as my strength faded or point my board towards the shore and try and catch a less powerful wave to the sand.

The skyline of St. Andrews viewed across the East Sands. Photo credit: Val Vannet / St. Andrews from Kinkell Braes / CC BY-SA 2.0

I made the decision to paddle back to shore. From my years as a competitive swimmer I knew a tired swimmer was not a good swimmer and I didn’t want to take my chances. I didn’t even realize how tired I was until I had to pick my board up and carry it back to the surf shed. I could barely lift the board and couldn’t even manage to pull off my tight wet suit booties when I tried to change back into dry clothes. It wasn’t until I called my mom to report on my experience that I realized I had come close to drowning. It was only after my mother had said, “Thank goodness you didn’t drown! A couple more waves, and you might not have come back up!” that the seriousness of the situation struck me. She was right. A couple more waves and tumbles, and I don’t know if I would have had the strength to keep my head above the surface. I had always imagined drowning as someone waving around for help, not quietly slipping beneath a wave.

The only reason that my experience ended well that day, and I never once thought drowning was a possibility, was because I had the skills to bring me to safety. I was a strong swimmer and was comfortable keeping myself afloat. I wore a wetsuit to protect myself from cold water shock. I hadn’t gone in the water by myself. I was at least one of ten people out on the water that day. I had told my roommate where I was going and when to expect me back. But that one decision, to stay in the water and paddle back or head for shore, was the major decision that decided my safety on that day. If I had chosen to paddle back out and try and catch another wave, I can not confidently say that I would be here writing this article today, despite all the other safe choices I had made.

I know many of you will not be braving the North Sea cold to try to catch big surf. However, I hope my experience illustrates how strong swimming abilities and strong water safety knowledge can provide happy endings to potentially dangerous water situations. Without these two skills, any experience with water can be just as close a call as mine. So, I encourage everyone to start their journey towards becoming strong swimmers or brush up on their water safety as summer rounds the corner so that everyone can enjoy the lake, pool, or ocean this summer.

The Red Cross offers a free Swim app that helps families and kids have fun while learning about water safety.

A great place to start is on the Red Cross website! We offer lots of great resources, from swim lessons for children and adults to a free Swim app that helps families and kids have fun learning about water safety. On our website, you can find Red Cross partner swim lessons that are being offered near you and find lessons for parents about children’s water safety. In addition, the Swim app has videos and activities to make learning about water safety more engaging for young children. You can even track your kids’ progress, allowing them to earn badges as they learn to swim.

Resources like these make water safety more accessible than ever, so please don’t hesitate to take a look! One more person who learns how to be a safe swimmer is one more person whose story ends like mine, safely on shore.

Olivia Wolf is an American Red Cross volunteer for the Minnesota and Dakotas Region. She’s attending university in St. Andrews, Scotland.

Showing how much has to be done

Photo credit: John Decker/American Red Cross

The photo above, sent from one of our Red Cross volunteers, captures a tiny fraction of the sandbags being used to fight back water rising in the Rainy River watershed (and others) across northern Minnesota since last Friday. These sandbags are filled by community volunteers: families, students, neighbors and out-of-towners. They get thirsty, they get hungry and they get blisters. So, we’re there supporting them with hydration and snacks as well as basic health services – we’re helping the helpers! We’ve been working primarily in International Falls (Koochiching County) and doing deliveries to Lake Kabetogama and surrounding areas (Northern St. Louis County).

FAST FACTS

By end of day today, we’ll have provided since last Friday:

💧 Bottled water: 3,288

✔️ Powerade/Gatorade/BodyArmor: 1,370

🍿 Snacks: 1,942

🍊 Fruit: 392

🚚 Remote distribution of Salvation Army meals: 60 meals

🤕 First aid services at sandbagging location: 96

Many thanks to the great groups below, and to all of our amazing partners, for supporting the flood response – Boise Paper/PCA, Walmart in Virginia, MN, United Way of Northeastern Minnesota, Coca Cola Bottling of International Falls, International Falls Hockey Arena, and Cub Foods Duluth. You’re the best! 🤩

May is Military Appreciation Month

As part of our Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) activities, we’re proud to celebrate national Military Appreciation Month with service members, veterans and their families.

The American Red Cross has a long history of serving the U.S. military going back to the Civil War. Our founder, Clara Barton, also known as, “the angel of the battlefield,” participated in 16 separate battles during the war.

This proud service to our Armed Forces continues today in our region:

✔️ In April 2022, the Minnesota and Dakotas Region assisted with 56 emergency communications requests. The Red Cross is federally chartered to handle all emergency communications to our active-duty forces.

✔️ In April, we participated in deployment events where 54 military members and their families received much needed resiliency training. The Red Cross provides much needed resiliency training to deploying units and their families.

✔️ We also follow up with family members of deployed service members. In April, for example, 240 critical community service cases were completed.

🤗 These services happen only with the outstanding efforts of our SAF volunteers. We’d like to share our profound thanks to them for their generosity of time, kindness and expertise. You’re the best!

📷 This May, Red Cross youth volunteers delivered messages of gratitude and Girl Scout cookies at Veterans Affairs clinics in Hibbing, MN and Superior, WI and to VA homes in Silver Bay and Fergus Falls. Photo credit: Dan Williams/American Red Cross

Why I volunteer to install smoke alarms

By Lowell Perman, Red Cross volunteer

About five years ago, I was looking for a volunteer opportunity and decided to join the American Red Cross. I went to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and trained for sheltering because there was a call for volunteers before some hurricanes were heading to the state of Texas. I did my training for sheltering. A couple days later I got asked to deploy to Texas, and then it changed very soon because another hurricane came in to Georgia and I ended up going to Georgia and doing a two week deployment in sheltering.

Red Cross volunteer Lowell Perman. Submitted photo.

I flew into Atlanta and caught a ride to Macon, Georgia and was deployed there in a warehouse. Waiting to be sent to a shelter and having lunch one day in the back table with other people, I met someone from Georgia that was involved with the Pillowcase Project and since I’m a former educator I was really interested in the project and I never heard of it. So, she explained it to me and when I got back after my deployment I took the training and became a pillowcase instructor.

I’ve always enjoyed presenting the Pillowcase Project to kids and talking about emergencies and home fires and smoke alarms and this leads to my volunteering to help install smoke alarms in my local community as part of Sound the Alarm. The first time I volunteered I was paired with a cable installer from Midco. We went door to door, knocking on doors and asking to come in and check smoke alarms or install them if there weren’t any. It was really exciting for me because I am a public facing type of person and love boots on the ground type of work.

It’s a great feeling to know that you can do something in your local community and you just know that you’re making a difference.  

Lowell Perman, Red Cross Sound the Alarm Volunteer

Before we started I told the Midco installer gentleman that we can switch off every other time if he wants and he can do the presentation and I can do the installing. So, after the first one I said do you wanna switch and he said absolutely not – you keep doing the talking and communicating with the people and I’ll do the installing so that really worked. We had a really good day, we made a great organized team and covered a lot of blocks.  It was always interesting to talk to people, to meet new people, and it was a really good feeling knowing that I was doing something really good in the community like installing smoke alarms.  

What was really interesting and amazing to me was, I believe, about 25% of the smoke alarms that we installed were replacement of ones that had missing pieces or were non-functional or were just too old and didn’t work. So it was actually giving people a false sense of security having smoke alarms in their house that actually didn’t work. So that was a great feeling replacing old smoke alarms.

Red Cross volunteer Lowell Perman is a Pillowcase Project instructor. Photo, used with permission, by Curt Nettinga/Huron Plainsman.

What was also fun was the little kids that were watching me and asking me ‘what are you doing to our house’ and I would say we’re fixing your house and I would take out one of the smoke alarms and do a little presentation to show them what it sounds like when it goes off by pressing the test button on the smoke alarm and to stay low and get out of the house and stay out if there’s a fire. And I would also talk to them and their family about picking a meeting spot outside to meet in case of a fire emergency at their house.

It was a really fun project. I’ve also been paired with firefighters and that is a fun experience also going door to door. It’s a great feeling to know that you can do something in your local community and you just know that you’re making a difference.  

Lowell Perman is a volunteer with the American Red Cross serving Eastern South Dakota, which is part of the American Red Cross Minnesota and Dakotas Region. Sound the Alarm is a critical part of the national Red Cross Home Fire Campaign, which has helped save 1,243 lives, including 25 in our Minnesota and Dakotas region, since launching in October 2014. To volunteer for upcoming smoke alarm installation and home fire prevention activities, including events in Mobridge, SD, and Minot, ND, this May, click here.

“We need more Annas in the world”

Many Red Crossers are committed to changing the world – one community, one person at a time. That is exactly what Anna Sieben’s mission was.

Sadly, Anna passed away unexpectedly on September 3, 2021, following complications from severe pneumonia.

Anna Sieben
1990 – 2021

To honor Anna’s legacy of making a difference, and her passion for the lifesaving mission of the American Red Cross, her friends and family have organized a blood drive in her memory on May 20, 2022, at Crossroads Church in Hastings, Minn. where Anna attended.

Throughout her life Anna had unwavering passion for helping others. “She was 110% about helping other people regardless of whether she knew you well or if you were a stranger,” said her best friend, Alea Gaughn, who’s helping to organize the blood drive in memory of Anna. “Anyone who knew Anna knew that she had three passions in life: her son Afton, living a healthy lifestyle and helping others.”

Anna and son Afton

Before Anna became a Red Cross employee, she worked at a nursing home. “Anna showed so much passion for the residents there – it was her calling to help others,” says Alea.

In 2019, Anna joined the Red Cross in the biomedical services scheduling department. Her spirit of giving and passion for helping others was quickly evident by her enthusiasm to host blood drives at several of her church’s campuses and volunteer at an annual Christmas Eve blood drive sponsored by the Red Cross.

“Anna was a shining light,” said Dee Carlson, manager of the scheduling department and Anna’s supervisor. “It was amazing to witness how she carried the mission of the Red Cross through everything she did. She made an impact on me, and our entire team, that will change us forever. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of her – I miss her sweet smiles, her silly moments and her infectious laugh.”

Anna touched many at the Red Cross. Co-workers across departments enjoyed working with her.

“Anna was a beautiful person,” said Nicole Perlstein, donor recruitment account manager. “To me, she was a one in million type of gal! Anna deeply loved the lifesaving mission of the Red Cross, and I appreciated her passion to help in the community as a blood program leader.” 

Cathy Stapel, a donor recruitment account manager, recalls that Anna always had a glow about her and a smile on her face.

Selflessly, Anna volunteered at Red Cross blood drives including the annual St. James Thanksgiving Day blood drive. She brought homemade cookies to share with blood donors when they finished their donations (pre-Covid). Her son Afton volunteered too, handing out pumpkin pies. “I could tell she adored Afton and I remember thinking how nice it was that she gave up her holiday to help and got him involved in giving back,” said Cathy.  

Anna and Red Crossers Amber Swing and Cathy Stapel at the annual St. James Thanksgiving Day blood drive

Anna, an avid blood donor herself, encouraged her friends and family to donate blood regularly, and many continue as an ongoing tribute to her. “Anna impacted so many lives in such a positive way – she taught us how important it was to give back,” said Alea. “Anna would be so proud to have us donate blood in her name. My wish is for everyone to gather to roll up a sleeve one more time for Anna!”

Anna was a dedicated blood donor and encouraged others to donate

All appointments have been filled for the May 20 blood drive being held in memory of Anna. Those who want to donate in Anna’s honor are welcome to make an appointment to donate at other blood drive locations by downloading the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

Story by Sue Thesenga /American Red Cross. Photos courtesy Alea Gaughn

Local Disaster Relief Rolling Snapshot – 2022

When the worst happens, we’re there. After disasters, mostly home fires in our region, Red Cross volunteers work with fire departments and other response partners to connect with families and support needs like emergency lodging, financial assistance and emotional support.

January

🔥 Our winter home fire season continued to disrupt lives during this difficult time. In January across the Minnesota & Dakotas Region, our disaster relief volunteers responded to 118 incidents, helping 567 people. Thank you to our volunteers for their enormous efforts to help others with immediate assistance as they rebuild their lives after devastating home fires.

February

🔥 Across our three-state region during February, we responded to 94 home fires and helped 290 people affected by these fires. Help us change these statistics. Learn what to do before, during and after a fire! Visit redcross.org/mndaks for fire prevention and safety tips! #endhomefires

March

🔥 During March, our Disaster Action Team was as busy as ever helping people affected by the devastation and trauma that a home fire brings. Across our region, comprised of South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota, our relief workers (+90% volunteers) responded to 78 home fires and helped 304 adults and children. Some families were displaced for a short period of time while others needed to find new housing. Many thanks to all for being there for people when they needed you the most.

April

During April, responding to help people affected by flooding, freezing weather, home fires and even a tornado in Taopi, MN, filled the hands of our disaster services volunteers. Our trained volunteers supported 60+ disasters and helped 225+ people. Their efforts included working with local partners to support shelters in northwest Minnesota and western North Dakota. Thank you to everyone, especially our volunteers, for stepping up to help people when they needed you the most.

You Can Help

DONATE – Thanks to donations, our services are free and available for all those in need. Visit here to support our lifesaving work.

VOLUNTEER – The need is constant to help families affected by home fires and other disasters. Click here to become a volunteer.

Putting life back together ‘slowly but surely’ following a home fire in the northern Black Hills of South Dakota

Stone Street multi-family apartment fire, Lead, SD, July 10, 2021. Photo: Richard Smith/American Red Cross

Every day, the Red Cross helps people affected by home fires big and small. During 2021, for example, the Red Cross in South Dakota responded to more than 200 home fires and helped nearly 800 people.

Among them was Alisha Baudino and her son. On July 10, 2021, they were home and asleep when a fire started in the walls of the building where they rented an apartment on Stone Street in Lead, a small city founded after the discovery of gold in the northern Black Hills.

“I woke at 5 a.m. smelling smoke and just trying to figure out where it was coming from,” said Baudino. “I couldn’t see smoke or anything, but I could smell it.”  

Alisha went outside and still she saw nothing. Miners working across the street saw flames and pointed them out to her. “They yelled there was fire so I turned around to get my son out of the apartment.”

The apartment was already filled with smoke. Thankfully her son, who had recently turned 18, made it out on his own. They then helped account for those living in other units.

“There ended up being 11 different fire companies. After that it was just downhill. There was nothing we could do about it. We just sat there and watched while they tried to get it out.”

The building originally was a single-family house later turned into five apartments. It was declared a total loss and demolished. Only items stored in the garage, like her son’s work tools, were spared from the blaze.

“We’re doing good just working, trying to put life back together slowly but surely,” said Alisha Baudino, pictured with her son. Submitted photo.

Community members rallied to help. The Red Cross responded as well within hours after the fire started. “The Red Cross was there immediately. It was really quick.”

The Red Cross assistance gave everyone options to help themselves do what each needed most. Alisha, for example, used some of the relief to pay for a hotel room for her and her son. From there, they went to a cabin rental found by a friend, and then to a house they’d already planned to move into at the end of July.

Since the fire, life is gradually getting back to normal. She has two full-time jobs and takes each day one at a time going from home to work and back again.

“We’re doing good just working, trying to put life back together slowly but surely.”

To support Red Cross disaster relief through volunteer service or financial donation, click here. To learn more about the Red Cross home fire campaign, click here.

Story by Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross. Photo by Richard Smith/American Red Cross.

Three friends, one mission

How Annie, Liana and Katie are turning their life-threatening childbirth experiences into advocacy and awareness for blood donation.

Annie, Liana and Katie (pictured from left to right) all experienced devastating amniotic fluid embolisms during childbirth and collectively needed over 100 units of blood products.

Most of us have never heard of amniotic fluid embolism (AFE). Neither had Annie, Katie and Liana, three women from the Minneapolis and St. Paul metro area. They met through the AFE Foundation because they all experienced an AFE during childbirth. Their stories are different, but they all credit blood with helping to save their lives. Together, they needed over 100 units of lifesaving blood products. To raise awareness about AFE, they are sharing their stories and hosting a blood drive to help ensure blood products are available for others who need lifesaving transfusions.

AFE is a rare and serious condition – occurring in about 1 in 40,000 births in the U.S. It’s sudden. It’s unexpected. It’s life-threatening. AFE causes birth complications that affect both mother and baby during labor or shortly after delivery. It’s thought to be the result of an allergic-like reaction to the amniotic fluid that enters the mother’s bloodstream. It can result in the mother going into respiratory failure, cardiac arrest, and DIC. Some women also experience strokes.

Meet these three strong, brave and remarkable women who are AFE survivors and who, not too long ago, were total strangers.

Meet Annie – On March 23, 2020, just 12 days after COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, Annie had an emergency cesarean section and went into cardiac arrest. A code blue was called, CPR and shocks were administered, but her heart continued to fail. She entered disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), which causes blood to clot where it shouldn’t and then hemorrhage where clotting is necessary.

A massive blood transfusion was called for. Annie received about 25 units of blood products to replace the blood she lost.

“You just never think you’ll be the one in need. I had never donated blood before but made my first donation last September after I knew how important it was.”

Her son Henry was born without a pulse and quickly taken to the neonatal intensive care unit for treatment.

After over two weeks of unresponsiveness, Annie woke up and had paralysis on her right side and confusion about what had happened – she had no memory of going to the hospital to give birth and even thought she had miscarried.

An MRI revealed that Annie had suffered numerous strokes and bleeds. Following additional complications, set-backs and being isolated from her husband and family due to COVID-19 restrictions, the doctors said she would likely have long-term physical and cognitive disabilities and would require months of treatment in a rehab facility.

Annie met Henry for the first time in the rehab facility and six days later was able to go home. Henry doesn’t seem to have been impacted by the circumstances of his birth – his MRI was normal, and he is developing beautifully.

Although Annie has survived AFE physically unscathed and has returned to work recently, she says the “emotional wounds are deep and ones I’ll likely carry for the rest of my life. Something like this shouldn’t happen on the best day of your life.”  

Meet Katie – In August 2017, at 41+ weeks pregnant, Katie went in for her scheduled induction – anxious to meet her baby daughter. Once her water broke, everything went dark. Katie went in and out of consciousness but remembers the chaos going on around her as they wheeled her into the operating room for an emergency cesarian section.  

Three days later she woke up in the ICU and found out that she had an AFE followed by DIC, which required her to receive 50+ units of blood products. 

“I’ve donated blood once or twice before – and I’m filled with tremendous gratitude on how many people had to donate for me and how much more need there is out there.”

Her newborn daughter had suffered complications too and was transferred to a local children’s hospital for treatment. A week later, Katie was finally able to meet and hold her precious girl. It was the most unbelievable moment — “one I’ll never forget,” she says. On day 10, her daughter was cleared to go home, and Katie was hospitalized for an additional 15 days.

Once home, the littlest tasks were difficult – going up and down stairs, taking a shower, or changing one diaper. After two weeks at home, Katie was back in the hospital with bi-lateral pulmonary embolisms and was in and out of the hospital for a couple months with various other complications.

Katie went on to have a subsequent pregnancy and complication free delivery with her second child in April 2020.

Meet Liana – In January 2019, right before her delivery, a very pregnant Liana recalls a feeling that something was wrong. Her husband tried to reassure her, saying that the humans have been having babies for millions of years and that all would be okay. She wrote off her feelings as the jitters for a first-time mother.

Liana was induced at 38 weeks and was excited to meet her baby. Her fear turned real when she experienced complications during delivery. Liana’s blood pressure plummeted followed by massive hemorrhaging, coding, seizing and a stroke. Doctors performed an emergency cesarean section and Liana required more than 10 units of blood products. Her daughter Lydia was born with no heart rate.

“Blood is the ultimate gift – it helped save my life!”

When Liana woke up in the ICU she could hardly move or speak. She tried, but nothing came out. She was told she had given birth and had a daughter named Lydia. “So many thoughts were racing through my mind. No matter how much I wanted to talk, I couldn’t. So, I just cried.”

Liana spent 17 additional days in the hospital going through speech and occupational therapy.

Although AFE caused significant and lasting health complications that affected her memory, speech and motor skills, it hasn’t stopped Liana from keeping a positive attitude and a sense of humor. With great determination and many hours of rehab she’s been able to resume her passion to do the things she loves.

“I’ve physically made a full recovery, but am mentally dealing with the trauma.”

Liana has donated blood in the past and plans on being a regular blood donor.

——————————

To help build awareness for the importance of blood donation and AFE, their first-ever “friends of AFE blood drive” will be held February 18, 2022, for their families and friends.

Learn more about AFE on the Amniotic Fluid Embolism Foundation’s website and read Annie’s, Katie’s and Liana’s stories on their blog.


Story by Sue Thesenga and Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross. Photos courtesy Annie, Katie and Liana.

What’s truly Precious

Katryna Hunt had a bad feeling the morning of September 20, 2021 in Minot, North Dakota, but she left for work early anyway to make sure she was on time.

Her fiance’ TJ had just gotten home from his night shift and headed to bed. Soon after, the blaring sound of smoke alarms woke him. Maybe, he thought, their roommate Nick was cooking but then he saw the smoke and flames.

TJ called Katryna and all she could make out before they were disconnected was the word “fire”.  She immediately rushed home and when she arrived, she could see her home in flames – a fire had started outside on her porch.

Fortunately, TJ, Nick, her 11-year-old cat Precious and their pet lizard had safely evacuated with a few valuables.

Katryna Hunt’s mobile home in Minot, ND was destroyed by a fire that started on the porch.

Soon the Red Cross was on scene offering comfort and disaster assistance, including financial support, comfort kits, cleaning items and help finding immediate shelter. Red Cross assistance helped cover a two-week hotel stay that allowed for Precious to be with her.

“I was so worried about Precious because she has separation anxiety and would not have done well without being close to me. I was so grateful that they were able to find a hotel that allowed Precious!” said Katryna.

Katryna was happy that 11-year-old Precious made it out of the fire safely.

She credits working smoke alarms with saving their lives. “When I went back to get a few things and clean up I could hear the smoke alarm that was by the back door still faintly beeping –without these things could have ended much worse.”

Katryna feels fortunate everyone was safe. Despite soot covering their belongings, she was able to recover a few meaningful items, including her porcelain doll collection.

Red Cross volunteers were able to refer Katryna to another agency who helped her with a deposit for a new rental unit and the first month’s rent. In October, Katryna moved into her new home. One of her first calls she got was from the Red Cross congratulating her and checking to see if she needed anything.

“Red Cross volunteers followed up with me every day! It was so comforting to have someone check up on me because all my family is in Tennessee. I knew I wasn’t alone.”

Katryna feels lucky and hopes that her story helps raise awareness of the need for working smoke alarms. “Home fires can happen to anyone, anytime – having working smoke alarms is an easy thing we can all do to avoid the unthinkable.”

Make sure you and your loved ones are prepared for home fires, visit soundthealarm.org/mndaks.

Story by Sue Thesenga/American Red Cross. Photos courtesy Katryna Hunt.

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