Jorge Sincuir donated blood 27 times as a UCLA student, but never fully understood his impact as a donor until he needed a transfusion himself.
Last Wednesday, Sincuir met three donors who helped save his life at a UCLA Blood and Platelet Center event organized to honor frequent donors.
Last April, Sincuir, a UCLA alumnus, was driving on Sunset Boulevard during a heavy rainstorm when his car hydroplaned and was struck by an SUV. He needed five gallons of blood after shattering his pelvis, left hip and left arm.
“My last memory of that night was driving through Beverly Hills,” Sincuir said. “All that I know about the accident I’ve gathered from the police report, and from looking through the pictures online.”
Sincuir woke up three days later, under the influence of several medications, and calmly listened to his doctors and family tell him about the accident.
“I took it so matter-of-factly, but once I started feeling like myself again, I made an effort to understand the medical reports,” Sincuir said. “With more information, I realized how serious my condition was.”
During his six-week stay at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, Sincuir underwent three surgeries. During his first surgery, his kidneys failed and doctors aborted the operation, leaving him in an induced coma and blind for a week. Doctors warned Sincuir he may have to live the rest of his life in a wheelchair, coping with other complications from the surgeries.
His doctors worried Sincuir also sustained physical trauma to the head during the accident, resulting in a possible mental injury. Rather than dwelling on his situation, Sincuir said he started making plans for his life outside the hospital room.
“I didn’t expect the complications to be so big,” Sincuir said. “I feared losing myself. I feared that I would wake up and not be me.”
Sincuir said he focused on living his life as though he had been given a second chance, rather than thinking about the injuries he suffered as a result of the accident.
“I come from a lower-income family, and have grown up knowing that accidents or bad things can happen in life,” Sincuir said. “You can either let them consume you or come out better because of it.”
Alexandra Hoey, Sincuir’s girlfriend, said he recovered quickly with love and positivity from his family, friends and students. Sincuir, who worked as a tutor, received letters from his students that detailed how much they missed him.
Sincuir said he was overwhelmed with gratitude when he met the donors.
“I didn’t know how to act when I met them,” Sincuir said. “My mother was crying, but I felt a bit the opposite of that – I was too emotional to be able to show anything.”
Melinda Green, a fourth-year physiological science student and one of Sincuir’s 27 donors, said she started donating blood in high school because it seemed like the right thing to do.
“I stopped thinking so much about why I was donating, until I got an email about this event,” Green said. “It made it real when they say that you’re saving someone’s life, so it was an honor to meet Jorge.”
Sincuir began donating blood during high school, and continued to donate as often as possible while he was a student. Sincuir said he and his brother continued to donate, even though his family feared their frequent donations could be detrimental to their health.
“My father grew up in Guatemala and his mother was a nurse, so he knew how unethical hospitals in other countries can be,” Sincuir said. “But after the accident, he went straight to the hospital with my brother to donate.”
After the accident, Sincuir returned to California State University, Dominguez Hills, where he is studying to become a clinical lab technician who processes blood donations. He added he is doing his best to stay positive after the accident, and plans to continue donating blood.
“I don’t think my perspective on donating blood has changed, because I’ve had the right perspective towards it,” Sincuir said. “What has changed is its significance. Before, I hadn’t thought about the effects of donating, of how it is going to end up saving someone’s life.”