Yvonne Ortega, Manager of Mobile Operations at South Texas Blood & Tissue, was 23 weeks pregnant with her first child when she felt sick and went to the emergency room.
After a long wait, she got up to ask to be seen – and then passed out on the waiting room floor. When she woke up, doctors told her she would need an emergency C-section.
Blood for mom and baby
Yvonne’s baby girl Justice weighed just 2 pounds and had to be transferred to a neonatal intensive care unit almost immediately. All the while, Yvonne was losing blood from the surgery. Doctors told her she needed blood transfusions, but she was apprehensive.
“Being 16, I didn’t know anything about that. I immediately turned it away,” Yvonne said. “The doctor said, ‘Well you have two choices: you can either not take the blood and you will probably bleed to death and not see your child grow up or you can consent, take the blood and risk that you get something, but you’ll be able to see your baby grow up.’”
Yvonne said she immediately consented and received two units of blood and at least one unit of platelets. She spent the next four days in the hospital, and when she finally got to see Justice again, the baby weighed only 1 pound. Doctors told Yvonne that Justice would need a blood transfusion too.
“I saw the difference in her – she was so pale and then as soon as they would give her a few drops of blood, like instantly she would get her color back and start waving her fingers and her feet,” said Yvonne.
Because of her size, doctors had to use a small syringe of blood for Justice and give her only milliliters at a time, Yvonne said.
A healthy life
Twenty-eight years later, Justice is a healthy adult living in the Houston area and Yvonne has spent her career working in blood donation in South Texas. She started working for United Blood Services (now Vitalant) near her hometown of Edinburg, at 18 years old and worked there for 17 years before deciding to move to San Antonio and taking a job at South Texas Blood & Tissue in 2004.
“I think we all think that people need blood for surgery or a trauma, but I don’t think we think about – whether it’s a C-section or a natural birth – the fact that moms need a lot of blood,” Yvonne said.
She has seen the impact of blood donation through her and her daughter, her career and even through her dad, who needed blood on multiple occasions after receiving a donated kidney and then battling leukemia.
“I think most donors donate blood and then that’s it, right? But they really don’t understand that a blood transfusion is everything for a patient that’s waiting for it,” Yvonne said.
Safety in donations
One thing she wants people to understand is how safe blood transfusions are for patients.
“Now that I work here and see all the testing and the screening that we do- it is truly safe,” Yvonne said. “I know a lot of family and friends call me and they’re like, ‘I’m going to need blood – should I take it? Is it safe?’ And I’m like, 100% yes,” Yvonne said.
To learn more about blood donation or schedule an appointment to give blood, visit SouthTexasBlood.org.