Sarah Spinner depleted the hospital's blood supply after giving birth to her son, days before Christmas.
Seven years later, she says she owes her life to the State Troopers who rushed to deliver more blood, and the strangers who donated it.
"Through that, my life was saved," Spinner said. "I lived a Christmas story."
This time of year is already overwhelming for the 40-year-old mother of two living in Oakdale. But this year, Spinner was brought to tears when she found out Oakdale's "12 Hours of Giving" — Minnesota's largest single-day blood drive — expanded to a second day to keep up with donor demand.
Susan Thesenga, regional spokeswoman with the American Red Cross, said when Tuesday's 440 appointment slots filled up, another 100 were added for Wednesday. She said there are more donors than in any previous year.
Social distancing guidelines that limited the number of people able to donate at a time also contributed to the expanded schedule, Thesenga said. Unlike in previous years, walk-ins weren't allowed, and there wasn't live entertainment — though Thesenga said donors did get individually wrapped holiday treats, and Santa Claus found time to donate, too.
Spinner, who lives with her husband Jim, 7-year-old son Luke and 4-year-old adopted daughter, Ruby, said last year the blood drive fell on Dec. 19, her son's sixth birthday — a full-circle experience for the family.
"You have an invisible recipient, you know, you never see who gets your blood," she said. "You never hear the story, and so the circle is never completed in your mind as a donor."
After eight years of infertility, the Spinners in 2013 were anticipating a normal birth. But after 26 hours of labor and Caesarean section, her blood pressure plummeted and soon a trauma surgeon and medical staff were swarming her room at Lakeview Hospital in Stillwater.
Spinner received 16 red cell products as well as platelets and plasma following an emergency hysterectomy. She was diagnosed with disseminated intravascular coagulation, a condition caused by excessive blood clotting that carries a very high mortality rate.
"There's not many days that go by that I don't think about almost not being here, almost not getting to see my kids grow up. It's very humbling," Spinner said. "I owe my life to a whole bunch of strangers."
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted blood drive operations, with many regular hosts like schools and businesses canceling events. In March, at the outset of the pandemic, nearly 300 blood drives across Minnesota and the Dakotas were canceled, putting pressure on the region's blood banks.
Thesenga said as COVID-19 hospitalizations rise, there's a demand for convalescent plasma, a type of antibody donation from those who have recovered from the virus. That demand is contributing to the blood shortage, she said, adding that eligible COVID-19 survivors should consider donating.
To find a nearby blood drive, visit redcrossblood.org.
Kim Hyatt • 612-673-4751