Young Mother Meets, Thanks Blood Donors Who Saved Her Life

Jennifer Calderon, 34, lost five units of blood after giving birth to her youngest son Henry

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    Todd Cheney/UCLA Photography
    Jennifer Calderon surrounded by her donors, from left: Wendy Lohman, Emily Laing, Mary Chuhinko, Richard McAndrews, Jennifer Calderon with son, Henry; Linda Hashi, Megan Cory and Ricardo Barboza.

    Because of privacy laws, patients rarely get to meet the blood donors whose generosity helped save their lives.

    But on Friday, a reunion organized by the UCLA Blood and Platelet Center changed the rules.

    A young mother, who nearly died from bleeding after giving birth to her premature son, met seven of an unknown number of donors who sustained her life.

    “Saying thank you doesn’t seem like it’s enough for what you’ve done for me,” Jennifer Calderon said, expressing gratitude for the 24 units of donated blood, plasma and platelets that are making it possible for her to raise her two sons.

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    Last April, the 34-year-old lawyer suffered uterine hemorrhaging after a high-risk cesarean section at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.

    The mother, who stands 5 feet tall, lost five liters of blood, and underwent three surgeries in four hours. She was hospitalized at UCLA for two weeks -- including two days in intensive care.

    Donor Richard McAndrews, 55, regularly gives blood at UCLA and to date, has contributed more than 10 gallons.

    He told the crowd Friday that it was a privilege to meet someone who he had helped with his donation.

    “For the most part, we never know that a recipient could be sitting at the next table in a restaurant or walking by on the street,” McAndrews said, according to a transcript of his speech.

    “Although I’m sure they are grateful for our donation, it gives me a sense of great satisfaction and pleasure to know I can benefit someone in need.”

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    Dr. Tina Nguyen, a UCLA obstetrician who specializes in high-risk pregnancies, delivered Calderon’s baby and thanked donors for their gift of blood and platelets.

    “You save lives every day. As a surgeon, there is only so much operating I can do without blood products,” Nguyen told a room full of donors, according to a transcript of her speech.

    Nguyen said when it comes to pregnant patients, blood donations are even “more precious because of the circumstances surrounding the need.”

    Hemorrhaging is one of the top three causes of maternal mortality in the world, the doctor said. In the U.S., hemorrhaging accounts for 11 percent of pregnancy-related deaths.

    Calderon’s donors range in age from 19 to 60, and come from all across Southern California and from different backgrounds:

    • Ricardo Barboza (West Covina)
    • Mary Chuhinko (Malibu)
    • Megan Cory (West Los Angeles)
    • Linda Miyuki Hashi (Culver City)
    • Emily Laing (Cerritos)
    • Wendy Lohman (Los Angeles)
    • Richard McAndrews (Pacific Palisades)

    Calderon’s sons – 9-month-old Henry and 3-year-old Charlie – plus her husband and mother were present at Friday’s special meeting.

    Before the event wrapped, donor Ricardo Barboza, UCLA’s deputy fire marshal, made an impromptu speech to honor Calderon’s immediate support system.

    Calling up Dustin and Charlie Schmuldt, Barboza deputized the duo, making Calderon’s husband and elder son honorary fire marshals.

    To donate blood or platelets, a donor must be 17 years or older, weigh at least 110 pounds, be in good health, not take aspirin or anti-inflammatory drugs within 48 hours of donation, and be willing to allow one hour for donating blood or two for donating platelets, according to UCLA’s medical website.

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