Jenapher Blair had just given birth to her third child when the happy moment nearly turned deadly. She started hemorrhaging and her only chance to survive to see her baby daughter was to have a blood transfusion.
But there was one huge snag. The hospital didn't have enough blood on hand and the nearest supply was 80 miles away. Blair didn't have much time.
"It was touch and go," said Dr. Mary Bray, an obstetrician at Hutchinson Health Hospital, who was in the room for the July 21 delivery of a healthy baby girl, Adalyn.
Five state troopers jumped in to save the day by carrying out a "blood run." The first trooper relayed four units of O-negative blood from the American Red Cross in St. Paul to a nearby airport, then two others flew it by helicopter to the Hutchinson Municipal Airport and handed the blood off to two troopers on the ground who sped to the hospital. It all happened in just over an hour.
"We were on borrowed time while waiting for blood to arrive," said Brandon Thiemann, a nurse anesthetist who helped with the delivery. "If it had been two hours, the story would have been much more sad."
On Tuesday, a smiling Blair met the troopers responsible for saving her life. "If you were not here, who knows what would have happened," Blair said at a news conference as her husband, Stephan, and children, Caydence, 13, and Ayden, 7, stood behind her. "Because of you, my kids have their mom. Thank you."
Blair said she hopes one of her children will become a state trooper one day.
It all started as a routine delivery, then complications popped up. The baby was having trouble breathing and was taken to Children's Minnesota for care. Blair started bleeding excessively and asked Thiemann if she was going to die. With massive blood loss and little supply on hand, the prognosis was grim, Bray said.
A call from the hospital to the Red Cross set the wheels in motion. Troopers picked up the blood and delivered it to where it was needed. The State Patrol does nearly 100 blood and organ delivery runs a year, and it's something troopers train for, said Col. Matt Langer.
After the birth, Blair underwent an emergency hysterectomy and was taken by air ambulance to recover at Abbott Northwestern's Mother Baby Center.
"We were overjoyed when we learned Jenapher had made it," said trooper Brett Stricker.
Cases like Blair's show the need for people to donate blood, said Bob Bruce, a Red Cross spokesman.
The Red Cross is now experiencing a severe blood shortage as the number of trauma cases, organ transplants and elective surgeries rise and put a strain on the nation's blood inventory.
"Every donation might be the one that saves a life," Bruce said.
Two days after her frightening ordeal, Blair was reunited with her baby, husband and family, and later released from the hospital.
She started a GoFundMe to cover medical expenses and raise money for the agencies that helped her. She also has an urgent task to take care of, she said.
"I've never given blood before," she said. "Once I am cleared, it will be the first thing I do."
Tim Harlow • 612-673-7768