New Mom Received More Time with Son Thanks to Blood Donors
According to the American Cancer Society, 1 in 3 people in the United States will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. Hannah Gonterman happened to be 24 weeks pregnant when she learned that she had APL leukemia. Her thoughts immediately shifted to her budding family.
“I just remember thinking about my baby and thinking about Jayson and that I could die," said Gonterman. “I just remember laying there thinking, oh my God I have cancer. How can I have cancer?”
Cancer Diagnosis Mistaken for Common Cold
A visit to the doctor for cold symptoms and a fever resulted in an unthinkable cancer diagnosis. That visit quickly escalated into an extended hospital stay in the intensive care unit. Hours after being admitted to the hospital, Gonterman began suffering from acute disseminated intravascular coagulation – a side effect of her cancer and a condition that prevents the blood from clotting – causing her to bleed throughout her entire body.
For three weeks, she was in a coma, attached to a ventilator, receiving lifesaving blood transfusions and dialysis to treat her condition. In total, Gonterman received 40 units of blood. Doctors feared that death was imminent, but she beat all odds and survived, thanks in large part to the generosity of American Red Cross blood donors. And delivered a healthy baby boy at 34 weeks.
“Every blood donation that I got saved my life. If the blood wasn’t available, I wouldn’t be here, my son wouldn’t be here,” says Gonterman.
Chemo Added to New Mom’s To-Do List
In the midst of becoming a new mom, Gonterman had to endure months of chemotherapy that zapped her energy and left her longing for more time with her newborn. “I wanted to be normal with my baby and just have a normal life,” recalls Gonterman. During this time, the American Cancer Society helped by covering the costs of hotel stays when commuting from her home for cancer treatments.
After eight months of chemotherapy doctors can no longer detect cancer in Gonterman’s body, however it won’t be confirmed that she’s hit complete remission until Feb. 2021. Until then, she has quarterly doctor’s visits to ensure her cancer has not returned.
The Joys of Motherhood
Gonterman once questioned whether she’d be able to watch her son grow and feels thankful for all of the precious moments they’ve shared. “I just feel really grateful to be able to watch him grow up. I love watching him go play outside and run around in the dirt and get in the mud,” says Gonterman. “He may not have been here, and I also may not have been here if I had not gotten that blood. I am just grateful for it all.”
Honor a Loved One Through Donation
Every minute, five units of blood are needed to help someone going through cancer. Gonterman’s father was so inspired by Red Cross blood donors who helped his daughter, that he not only began donating blood himself, but also organizes blood drives to honor her and other patients in need.
To schedule a blood donation appointment or make a financial gift, visit GiveBloodToGiveTime.org to give patients and their families time, resources and the hope needed to fight back.
All blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients. A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.
Blood and platelet donors can save time at their next donation by using RapidPass® to complete their pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of their donation, before arriving at the blood drive. To get started, follow the instructions at RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPass or use the Red Cross Blood Donor App.