Blood drives crucial for community benefit

By Christina Calloway

PNT senior writer

ccalloway@pntonline.com

While most people were sitting down to a turkey dinner on Thanksgiving, Exie Price Williams was in the hospital that Thursday in 2008. She was there with a stomach virus she says saved her life because while there, her blood work revealed she had aplastic anemia, a bone marrow disease.

File photo Students have blood drawn by a technician at a United Blood Services blood drive.

File photo
Students have blood drawn by a technician at a United Blood Services blood drive.

The mother of three was told there was a 40 to 50 percent chance to recover and that she needed blood and platelets immediately. Initially, all she thought about was her children and their futures. They were her motivation to fight.

“Being a mom, I had no option. I had to fight every day,” Williams said. “I always heard stories of people who couldn’t fight anymore, I didn’t know what that felt like.”

She is one of the people whose life has depended on the local blood drives sponsored by United Blood Services. At least two to three drives are held in Portales a month, many times directly benefiting people who need blood in Portales, according to Stephanie Pointer, a representative for UBS in Lubbock, Texas.

Williams who is now 36, said when she was diagnosed she feared the unknown. She couldn’t comprehend being sick because she didn’t feel sick.

“They told me if I waited to go to the doctor’s, I could have died,” she said. “I didn’t have enough blood pumping through my body. Of course I was tired, I was a mom, I went to school full time, I worked full time. It was hard to comprehend, it wasn’t believable.”

A bloody nose could have been a life or death situation for her because when she was low on platelets, a loss of blood could be dire.

Williams is thankful for the people who donated blood at the drives held in her name, whether it directly benefited her or not.

“It’s so important because that’s my life. My life is in other people’s hands,” Williams said. “If someone didn’t donate that blood, I could die. I’m always very thankful when I see people donate blood.”

Since 2000, UBS has collected more than 4,000 life-saving units from the Portales area. That means approximately 12,000 lives have been saved as a result, according to Pointer.

Pointer said once the blood has been tested and processed, it is used for traumas, cancer patients, burn victims, premature babies and others who benefit from the donated blood. It is usually ready to be used within 72 hours of collection.

She added about 5 percent of Portales’ 12,000-plus population donates but more are eligible.

Williams hopes to reach those who have not donated because she said it could mean someone’s life.

“It’s such a selfless act, I tell them thank you,” Williams said. “I’m no longer dependent but it’s still a passionate subject for me. Someone is benefiting from it. Their life is being changed.”

UBS has coined the term blood hero, for those who donate blood.

“Some people think ‘it’s just blood.’ No, it’s someone’s life,” Williams said. “I think it’s wonderful when I see people come out and donating. When I hear the hero term and people say, ‘I just gave blood,’ it’s bigger than that. You just gave people another day.”

Jaelyn Jimenez is another person who has benefited from the local blood drives. The 11-year-old was diagnosed with leukemia at age 5.

Being out of school for a while, Jimenez is now back at Valencia Elementary making As and Bs according to her mother Amanda. She thinks her daughter has been stronger now that she’s back in the classroom and feeling a part of something.

Amanda Jimenez is appreciative to all those who have donated blood for Jaelyn.

“I like the fact that we live in a small community and people help,” Amanda Jimenez said.

“The blood drives help people, they help me,” Jaelyn added. “They help me get better.”

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