Robin Sharps went to play with her dog like she had done countless times before on June 14, 2022. A neighbor’s dog came over to join in the fun, but the impromptu playdate kicked off a series of events that left Robin in the fight of her life –a fight that would end up requiring Robin to receive a staggering 114 units of blood!
As the dogs were playing, they crashed into the back of Robin’s leg, resulting in a fractured tibia and damage to both her ACL and MCL. The surgery to fix the broken tibia was successful, but recovery required the junior high teacher to spend a good chunk of her summer break immobilized on the couch to let it heal properly.
After a few weeks of taking up residency on her couch, Robin went to her first physical therapy appointment, an evaluation before starting the full physical therapy routine. The evaluation went well but as Robin went to leave the office things took a drastic turn.
“As I was walking out the door I had a wave, a surge come over me that felt very different,” Robin said of that day. “I asked the receptionist if I could sit down and told her I wasn’t feeling well. I told her I was lightheaded, dizzy and couldn’t really see.” Robin called her husband, Reynoldsburg Fire Chief Jeffrey Sharps, and told him she needed a ride home. “I had initially planned on going from my physical therapy appointment to my first day of teacher meetings to start the school year,” Robin continued. “By the time my husband got there I was convulsing and seizing. He asked them to call 911 and they put me in the transport headed for Mount Carmel East.”
The trip would not be a smooth one. “On the way there I had my first cardiac arrest and needed CPR. We made it to Mount Carmel East and got settled as the staff got background information from my husband. He explained how I was probably the healthiest I’ve ever been, worked out consistently, never needing hospital or doctor trips. After that they sent me off for an MRI, which is when I had my second cardiac arrest, requiring CPR again. They waited for everything to settle down before trying to do the MRI again, but I went into my third cardiac arrest of the day.”
Struggling in attempts to do the MRI, the medical staff theorized that Robin had a blood clot causing the issues, and as Robin’s body began shutting down they put her on a blood thinner and hooked her up to an Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) machine that pumped and oxygenated Robin’s blood outside of her body allowing her heart and lungs to rest.
Robin was taken into surgery where the crew found multiple clots in her chest, and more distressingly, a saddle pulmonary embolism, a rare embolism that blocks the main pulmonary artery where it branches off into a Y-shape going into each lung. Saddle pulmonary embolisms are typically larger and more unstable blood clots, allowing for smaller clots to break off causing blockages further down in both sides of the lungs.
“They gave me a single digit percentage chance of survival” Robin said of the prognosis, “but they wouldn’t give up on me.” The surgical staff worked on Robin for hours, finding the clots spread throughout her lungs, using an enormous amount of blood product to keep her alive during hours of surgery. “Over the span of 48 hours through multiple surgeries they used 114 units of blood to keep me alive.”
After her surgery Robin was placed in a medically induced coma for 11 days as her body began recovering from the trauma it had gone through. After those 11 days Robin woke up and spent the next 10 days still in the ICU, but unbeknownst to Robin her legend was growing inside the walls of Mount Carmel East.
“All these people were coming into my room and saying stuff like ‘you look so great’ and I had never met them. Turns out it was the people that worked on me in surgery or came in to do something while I was out of it. There were countless people that either worked on me, assisted in those efforts, or just heard my story in the hospital because it was so strange.”
Once Robin was able to leave the hospital and complete four months of recovery and therapy, she returned to teaching in time for the second semester of the school year. As the semester wore on a friend and principal at a different school reached out because they had a student that wanted to do a community service project, and the idea of a blood drive in Robin’s honor was picked.
“I went to their school during this drive and gave blood myself. I was surprised by how easy it was. It was a full circle moment, you know. People that I don’t know donated the blood that kept me alive, it was nice getting to give back along with a lot of first-time donors at that drive.”
Robin knows a lot went into keeping her here, and she doesn’t lose sight of that. “If it wasn’t for the never give up attitude of the medical staff that operated on me around the clock for two days and the 114 units of blood they needed, I wouldn’t be here. That’s why it’s important to give blood, you never know who will need it.”