Blood Donation: The Gift of Life

Every two seconds, somebody in our country needs blood. My name is Brian Boyle, I am 26 years old, and in the summer of 2004, I was one of these people.

Eight years ago on July 6, 2004, I was involved in a near fatal car accident that caused catastrophic injuries. My heart was pushed across my chest, crushed pelvis, shattered ribs, broken clavicle, collapsed lungs, kidneys failed, liver was lacerated, every major organ was
damaged, and I lost 60 percent of my blood.

My blood donors were the foundation of my recovery.

When I arrived at Shock Trauma by medevac, I received 36 blood transfusions and 13 plasma treatments. I would spend the next two months in room 19 of the Intensive Care Unit on life support, and for those months I was on the brink and slipping fast. In a chemically induced coma, I laid there on my back paralyzed and in a state of total confusion. I woke up not knowing how I arrived there; medicated drugs that were stronger than morphine were flowing through my veins while the life support machines kept my lungs breathing and my heart beating.

After 14 life-saving operations, I lost a total of 100 pounds and had to go to a local rehab center in Baltimore.

It was in this stage of my life where I reflected on my journey back to life and realized that there was a possibility that I could eventually leave the hospital and make a full recovery. Someday in the distant future, I could be healthy and have a normal life again. And I made a promise to myself that if and when I left the hospital, I would use my background and experiences to help in as many forms as possible and do my best to make a positive impact in my community and throughout the country. And, this mission that I was envisioning traced back to the very start of my recovery when I arrived at Shock Trauma, which was brought about by the American Red Cross and the 36 units of blood they collected to save me in my time of need.

After declaring this personal mission of mine, the recovery continued.

After spending a few months in a wheelchair, I took small steps to walk on my own with a walker, than a cane, and then with some assistance from my parents on each side of me.

It was a miracle that I could walk again, but I wanted to push even further and not only walk, but run. After I accomplished that, I wanted to get back in the pool again. The human spirit is an amazing thing. After a few lung tests, I was able to go in the pool a little bit each week. Before the accident I had three short term goals upon graduating from high school: to go to college, swim on the team, and to one day compete in an Ironman triathlon which is the most difficult and challenging single-day athletic event in the world; it is a triathlon that consists of 2.4 mile swim in the ocean, followed by a 112 mile bike ride, and then a 26.2 mile marathon run, all in 17 hours. After a few months of swimming a few laps here and there, I decided that I was not going to let my injuries stop me from living my dreams, and six months after that I began my freshman year in college, where I swam on the team. Two years later, my third goal of competing in the Ironman took place on October 13th, 2007 -- which was the best day of my life. Throughout the race when I felt my heart racing and my blood pumping; these were once signs that I was dying, now these were signs that I was living.

And, now that I was fully recovered and had a clean bill of health, I lived up to the promise that I made when I was in rehab and joined forces with the American Red Cross in December 2007. I have been working very closely with the organization as a volunteer since then by traveling across the country and visiting with the various Red Cross blood regions and Disaster Chapter offices, proudly wearing the American Red Cross logo in all my triathlon and running events, and speaking at high schools and colleges about the importance of blood donation. I found that the best way to show my sincere appreciation to the gift of life that my blood donors gave to me was by becoming a blood donor myself. In the winter of 2009, I gave my very first donation at the hospital that brought me back to life, which was a really special day. And this past weekend, I gave my sixth blood donation.

For nearly 5 million people who receive blood transfusions every year, a single donation can make the difference between life and death. I am living proof of this and I'm so thankful for all the people who donated for me; by giving just a little bit of their time, they have given somebody like me a lifetime.

The need is constant. The gratification is instant.

This holiday season, please give the gift that matters most, the gift of life. Give Blood.