Tuesday, December 10

Mother thanks donors from UCLA Blood and Platelet Center who saved her life

Jennifer Calderon, with her son Henry, meets her blood donors who saved her life after she underwent a blood transfusion following a caesarean section nearly 10 months ago.

Jennifer Calderon, with her son Henry, meets her blood donors who saved her life after she underwent a blood transfusion following a caesarean section nearly 10 months ago. (Courtesy of UCLA Blood and Platelet Center)

Jennifer Calderon was so relieved to hear her baby Henry’s cries in the delivery room that she didn’t notice the medical staff jumping into action.

Calderon’s body would not stop bleeding after her cesarean section, an additional complication to what was already a difficult pregnancy.

Calderon’s doctor at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center quickly ordered several units of blood, plasma and platelets to be transfused into her body – a time-sensitive procedure that likely saved her life.

Calderon met for the first time the seven donors whose blood replaced her own during the surgery at the 9th Annual Donor Appreciation Luncheon on Friday

She lost about 5 liters of blood the day of the birth nearly 10 months ago, almost all of the blood in her 5-foot-tall frame.

“It’s so hard to say thank you to these amazing people who gave me the chance to know my son,” Calderon said. “They might not think what they’re doing is a big thing, but it truly is wonderful.”

The event, hosted by the UCLA Blood and Platelet Center, was organized to celebrate the year’s top donors, and encourage others to take the time to donate their blood and platelets.

About 70 people attended the event at the UCLA Faculty Center.

Calderon made a speech with her son in her arms, and her donors, ranging from ages 19 to 60, were called up from the crowd to introduce themselves to her.

Emily Liang, a second-year geology student and regular donor at the UCLA Blood and Platelet Center, was among those whose donation was used to save Calderon’s life.

“I wanted to cry when I met her,” Liang said. “It’s crazy to think that without our donations, she really wouldn’t be here with her family and things would have turned out differently.”

Liang said she has made blood and platelet donations part of her routine since she came to college because she was drawn to the community at the center.

Typically, donors just receive an email saying how many lives their blood has saved, but in this case the center gave Calderon’s donors a call to see if they would all meet for the event, Liang said.

The medical center uses about 70,000 units of blood per year, roughly 75 percent of which is collected from the UCLA Blood and Platelet Center, said Alyssa Ziman, medical director of the center.

The ready supplies of blood at the medical center during the time of Calderon’s surgery were important because she needed a transfusion immediately.

Dr. Tina Nguyen, Calderon’s doctor, said the blood was delivered to the operating room less than 10 minutes after it was ordered.

“In other hospitals if you’re waiting for blood it can take 45 minutes or so and the patient is bleeding out and it can be too late,” Nguyen said. “UCLA is great because so many people have already donated and there is blood in storage.”

UCLA Medical Center sees cases like Calderon’s at least once or twice a month, so it is crucial that people are willing to take the time to donate, Nguyen said.

Richard McAndrews, one of the seven donors, made a speech after meeting Calderon.

“When you donate blood, you can sometimes feel reduced to a bar code number on a bag,” McAndrews said. “Seeing (Calderon) here gives us the personal touch we sometimes forget.”

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