“I was fairly certain that first night that I was going to get a call in the middle of the night telling me that Ed had passed away,” she said.
Although a healthy, active adult, Ed has a heart condition that requires him to be on a blood thinner.
“Sixty-one years ago, I was born with a heart defect. I was born with an aortic valve that was bicuspid and not tricuspid,” Ed explained.
This means his valve, which controls the flow of blood from the left ventricle to the aorta, only had two flaps instead of three. It can be years before this causes a problem, but once a valve shows signs of leaking or narrowing, the heart must work harder to pump blood – and can lead to heart failure.
“When I was 32, I had an aortic dissection. It was an aneurysm. It was serious and I had open heart surgery. At the time they replaced the aorta, they also replaced the valve with a prosthetic metal valve,” he said.
That was in 1994. Ed has needed a blood thinning medication ever since, but it never interfered with his active lifestyle until the GI bleed earlier this year.
“I bleed easily now,” Ed explained. “So the doctors had to shut that off.”
While in the ICU, the medical team worked feverously to put him on a combination of drugs to help his blood clot while also ensuring he didn’t die from a clot off the heart valve.
“You’re robbing Peter to pay Paul, which I think was very frustrating for the intensivist,” Ed said.
Ed received an astounding 10 units of whole blood – about the volume of blood the average adult has in their entire body.
“If the blood hadn’t of been there, I would have died. I would have died, probably in the first couple of days. I would not have made it five days,” he said.
Every two seconds someone in this country, just like Ed, needs blood. It cannot be manufactured. In fact, lifesaving blood can only come from generous donors who volunteer to roll up a sleeve. For Suzanne, that need came full circle when it was her own husband’s life on the line.
“When I have donated, it’s always to that anonymous person who really needs it more than me,” she said. “A lot of people who donate blood are donating it to this anonymous need – or they donate because there is a shortage, but they don’t ever think that they are going to need it. Certainly, in our careers, we take care of other people. But here’s the time, we needed it. You just never know.”
Blood can take up to three days to be tested, processed and made available to patients, so it's the blood already on hospital shelves that helps save lives in an emergency. This time of year is traditionally hard on the nation’s blood supply. Seasonal illness, winter weather and the upcoming holidays often lead to lower appointment numbers and decreased donor turnout, making it hard to keep up with the constant demand for blood products.