Brought back to life…

Three years ago, Karen Thorn was in hospital, at death’s door. As medical staff raced to give her enough blood to make up for over 18 hours of a constant haemorrhage, she remembers looking up at the nurse in the theatre room and thinking that she’d reached the end of the line. But Karen’s still here, in large part due to the generous acts of blood donors across New Zealand.

Before her own experience of blood donation, Karen Thorn knew nothing about the constant need for blood donors, or even about the need for blood products.  But six days after giving birth to a beautiful baby girl, Karen suddenly awoke in the middle of the night to the sight of blood – she was haemorrhaging.  An ambulance was quickly sent her way and she was rushed to the hospital.

But after several hours at hospital, her bleeding hadn’t stopped. Medical staff did what they could to stem the bleeding, including administering antibiotics, a common treatment for post-natal haemorrhaging, but nothing worked. Another 18 hours later and Karen was still bleeding – in fact, she was dying. She remembers feeling incredibly hot and weak.

Karen had a highly uncommon condition called ‘secondary post-partum haemorrhage’ – she needed blood and she needed it fast.

As soon as Karen was correctly diagnosed, she was given an urgent, life-saving blood transfusion. Karen says the effect was immediate, and the transfusion felt “heavenly”. She was being brought back to life, and she could feel it. A second blood transfusion was administered, and Karen was kept in Intensive Care for another two days as she recovered from her near-death ordeal. Her sister Jen, who sat beside her during her entire hospital stay, recalls the experience as they both witnessed first-hand how life saving blood donations can be.

“I was watching her die”, says Jen.

“I remember the medical staff frantically hooking up the first transfusion – I could see the blood coming down the tube towards her arm and I just knew once the blood reached her she would be ok.”

Thanks to those two emergency blood transfusions, Jen was able to take Karen back to her family, safe and sound. Even now, three years later as a PhD student in Physics and loving mum of three, Karen is still baffled to have gone through what she did, “You never think it’ll happen to you”, she says “but I’m so grateful to have received the help that I did. I’m alive!”

Since living through this ordeal, both sisters knew they wanted to give something back. Jen has since proudly joined New Zealand Blood Service as a regular donor and while Karen anxiously dreams of doing the same, her administered blood transfusions require her to take an 8-year deferral before she too can donate - and she’s already counting down the days.

“Whoever you are out there, donating – thank you so much. You saved my life, and that’s an unbelievable gift to give someone. I can’t wait to become a donor myself and finally get my chance to pay it forward.”

To find out more about how you can become a blood donor, click here or call 0800 GIVE BLOOD.

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