KUSA - Anyone can be a hero and Tuesday November 1st is your chance to help save someone's life. The 19th annual Drive for Life is happening at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
Your blood type doesn't matter. The only thing that does matter, is that you give.
"Broncos fans are just our type."
Trevor Hall is a Bonfils employee who has also been a blood recipient. In 2014, Hall developed an autoimmune disease that affected his nervous system. He woke up one morning completely numb from head to toe.
"I couldn’t feel. I couldn’t really roll out of bed," said Hall. "As a 24-year-old guy it’s kind of a shock to wake up and not really be able to move out of bed.”
Doctors came up with the diagnosis of Guillain-Barre syndrome. He relied on a treatment called Intravenous Immunoglobulins (IVIG). IVIG is a plasma product. Each unit is derived from multiple plasma donors.
At the end of his three day treatment, he was walking again.
Now, Trevor encourages others to donate.
"Honestly there are all different types of blood that we need right now – but our type of donor is anyone who makes the time to come in and make that effect," said Hall. "To come in and save lives with us. To come in and donate blood. That’s our type.”
Chellie Voss is a blood and stem cell recipient. Just four months after giving birth to her son, Voss was diagnosed with leukemia.
“To see him grow up. He was four months old when I was diagnosed," said Voss "I wasn’t sure I was going to see his first birthday, truly…. It’s going to make me cry."
After two months of intensive chemotherapy and several blood product transfusions, she received a stem cell transplant from her brother.
“It was really scary to think the rest of my life and being able to watch my son grow up depends on whether or not I can find this match and if it wouldn’t have been my brother, I would have been at the mercy of strangers and their willingness to help somebody," said Voss.
Blood and stem cell donations saved her life. "That’s the most personal gift you can give. You’re giving somebody the chance at living,” said Voss.
Chris Orr is Bonfils’ top female donor. Orr has donated 65 gallons of blood to Bonfils over the last 40 years. She also donates platelets as often as 24 times a year.
“I can graciously say I’ve helped over 1,500 people to get better. I’ve met a few along the way and over the years you think – what a great opportunity this is to keep paying it forward,” said Orr. “My blood type is strong. It’s a B-Positive. I try to work it like that in everything I do.”
Danielle Percival is a blood recipient.
“In 2009 – I went into the hospital for a routine surgery and things became not so routine. So following the surgery – I required 33 units of blood to save my life,” said Percival. “Without one of those units, I would have died. I am so grateful to my 33 donors, who selflessly went to Bonfils, donated 33 units of blood. It ended up saving my life.”
Paul Berteau is a blood donor, just shy of the 50 gallon donation level.
“I have donated one pint over 49-gallons and the magic for me is – I live a very blessed life and this is an opportunity for me to give back for my blessings in life to somebody who may be less blessed,” said Berteau.
Donating blood wasn’t always easy for Berteau though. He had to first get over his fear of needles. Now, Berteau encourages others to get out and donate.
Just this year Chris Kennedy donated his 50th gallon of blood. He is also a blood recipient, having survived a skydiving crash in December 2001.
“Now I have a child, an 8-year-old, and I’ve just realized how precious life is and blood is not something they can synthesize. You need to get it from someone. There’s always a need for it,” said Kennedy. “For me, why I’m at 50 is because I’m at 50 – I didn’t stop."
Kennedy made donating blood a routine part of his life.
“It was easy to just look up and say, who’s doing blood donations? Who is the blood center right now? And I knew I could get involved right away and make a difference right away because it was just so easy,” said Kennedy. “And like I said, don’t look when they’re putting in the needle. If you don’t look when they’re putting in the needle, it’s OK.”
Eva and Victoria Ikonen
Victoria Ikonen was just 5 months old when she had an open-heart surgery, which required a blood transfusion. Now, Victoria and her mom encourage everyone who is eligible to donate blood.
"You start to see some familiar faces each year, which is really fun. Because as the years go by, we all change just a little bit, but we all have the same thing in common. And that is, to be a blood donor or to support those that are there as blood donors,” said Eva Ikonen, Victoria’s mom. “So, that to me is the best thing about a blood drive, is that we’re all there to save a life.”
Victoria says she will even be celebrating her 16th birthday with a blood drive.
“So, for the high school that I’m going to right now, we have blood drives and I feel like it would be a really good thing so far to talk to the people, and my friends about it, and then maybe get my friends involved as well,” said Victoria. “Because we’re the new generation. And if we start then more people will start, and think it’s cool almost.”
Daniel and Nadine Hailpern
Daniel Hailpern is a 16-year-old leukemia survivor. He had a bone marrow transplant when he was 14-years-old.
Now, Daniel and his mom, Nadine, encourage others to not only donate blood, but also to join the ‘Be Match Registry.’
"If you get picked, you get to save someone’s life. I mean it’s… you can’t turn that down. Like it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity that you really can make a difference in the world and save the life of another person. And all it takes is a small procedure that really is not life-changing or in any way affecting you. You regenerate bone marrow. It’s not like you’re donating an organ or something,” said Daniel.
You can sign up for the registry on Tuesday at the Bonfils Drive for Life.
“Not only that, that you’re saving the life of somebody who needs it, but you’re not only giving them the opportunity to have more time. But you’re giving it to their family, as well, and their friends, said Nadine Hailpern. “You give it to the patient who needs it, but you give it to everybody else that they love.”
(© 2017 KUSA)