Every two seconds, someone in the United States needs a blood transfusion. On July 6, 2004, I was one of these people.
One month after graduating from high school, I was coming home from swim practice and was involved in a near fatal car accident with a speeding dump truck. The injuries were catastrophic. The impact of the crash violently ripped my heart across my chest, shattered my ribs, clavicle and pelvis, collapsed my lungs, damaged pretty much every organ and drained my body of 60 percent of its blood.
After 14 lifesaving operations, 36 blood transfusions and 13 plasma treatments, I had lost 100 pounds and had to go to a rehab facility.
It was in this stage of my life that 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 normal again. And I made a promise to myself that if and when I left the hospital, I would use my background and experiences to make a positive impact in my community.
After spending a few months in a wheelchair, I took baby steps to walk on my own with a walker, then 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 into the pool a little bit each week. Before the accident I had three goals upon graduating from high school: to go to college, swim on the team and one day compete in an Ironman triathlon (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and a 26.2-mile run).
After a couple 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. On Oct. 13, 2007, I was competing in the Hawaii Ironman triathlon -- the second best day of my life. After a very long and hot day out in the lava fields of Hawaii, crossing that finish line was like being given the breath of life all over again because it symbolized the completion of my recovery.
Surgeons, physical therapists, nurses and care providers all made it possible. But without the 36 units of blood I received, beginning when I arrived at the shock trauma center minutes after my accident and through my arduous treatment, I never would have made it.
Thirty-six blood transfusions. That is 36 people who took an hour of their time to save the life of someone they would never know. When I compete in a race, it isn't just me out there: There is also a team of many blood donors being represented, and crossing that finish line is my way of saying thank you for their gift -- I have crossed the finish line in over three dozen endurance events since 2007.
When I returned home from the Hawaii Ironman, I finally felt like my recovery was complete. I wanted to live up to the promise that I made when I was in the rehab center, and I proudly joined forces with the American Red Cross as a volunteer. I also chose to celebrate my return to life with friends and family, in a more selfless way: I made my very first blood donation at the hospital that brought me back to life.
As I gave blood, with all my nurses, surgeons and other hospital staff there to celebrate with me, I felt overwhelmed with joy. For nearly 5 million people who receive blood transfusions every year, a donation can make the difference between life and death. I am living proof of this.
The American Red Cross recently launched the SleevesUp platform where individuals can donate blood in honor or in memory of someone. The concept is based on pledging to donate based simply by typing in your zip code and locating a local blood drive that you can conveniently donate at. This new platform allows you to help give the gift of life while encouraging others to donate blood with the click of a button.
I created my SleevesUp platform profile based on the concept of running 100 miles for 100 blood donors because I am hoping to raise awareness on the importance of blood donation. As the National Volunteer Spokesman of the Red Cross, I'm also trying to do my part to help increase the blood supply that was affected by the cancellation of many blood drives due to the inclement winter weather throughout most of the United States.
I am planning on running my first 100 mile ultramarathon at the end of April around the time of my 29th birthday, and I hope to reach this 100 blood donation goal and be able to dedicate a mile to each one of the 100 generous people who pledges to donate blood.
On March 10th I kicked off my campaign by donating blood, which was my 12th blood donation that I have given over the years. This is a short news segment about my 12th donation and some more information on my Red Cross volunteer background and 100 miles for 100 blood donors campaign.
My campaign goal is to reach 100 blood donations. Please help me in supporting this campaign and pledge to donate blood. By giving just a little bit of your time, you can help give somebody in need the chance at a lifetime.
To learn more, click here.