ECU student: Blood donors saved my life twice

Carl Lewis/The Ada NewsTierney Roberts, an East Central University student who says blood donors saved her life, tells her story Wednesday at The Ada News office.

Without the help of blood donors, Tierney Roberts might not be alive today.

Donated blood helped Roberts for the first time in 2010, when she was injured in a two-vehicle wreck on state Highway 19. She suffered serious but not life-threatening head and facial injuries and was airlifted to OU Medical Center in Oklahoma City for treatment.

Nearly four years later, the East Central University student learned she had hemolytic uremic syndrome, a possibly life-threatening condition that stemmed from an E. coli infection. Blood donations helped her recover from the disease.

Those two experiences reminded Roberts that blood donors can save lives, she said Wednesday.

“For those people who are scared of needles, it is really not that bad,” she said. “When you think about it, it doesn’t hurt hardly at all. It’s a small needle, and it takes, seriously, like 10 minutes. It’s definitely worth it.”

Three Ada-based employers — the Chickasaw Nation, Mercy Hospital Ada and People’s Electric Cooperative — are teaming up with the Oklahoma Blood Institute for a blood drive in Ada.

The seventh annual Ada All-American Blood Drive will take place from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. today at the Pontotoc County Agri-Plex Convention Center, 1710 N. Broadway. Healthy people ages 16 and older who meet certain requirements are encouraged to participate.

For more information or to make an appointment, call 1-877-340-8777 or visit www.obi.org.

Tierney’s story

In December 2014, Roberts developed an E. coli infection. That infection turned into hemolytic uremic syndrome, a rare condition caused by the abnormal destruction of red blood cells. The damaged cells clog the filtering system in the kidneys, which can lead to life-threatening kidney failure.

The condition usually develops in children after five to 10 days of diarrhea caused by infection with certain strains of E. coli. Adults can also develop HUS due to E. coli or other types of infection, certain medications or pregnancy.

Roberts said she was taken to Mercy Hospital Ada for treatment, but she lost a lot of blood while there and was beginning to experience kidney failure. She was later transferred to an Ardmore hospital, but that hospital didn’t have a plasmapheresis machine — a device that removes affected plasma and replaces it with fresh plasma or a plasma substitute — so she was taken to an Oklahoma City hospital that could perform the procedure.

Roberts said plasmapheresis is the only treatment for HUS because the patient’s blood is essentially destroying itself. She said she required 48 units of plasma, which came from donors, as well as five units of whole blood.

Roberts said people with HUS will not survive unless they undergo plasmapheresis, but they have a 50 percent chance of survival if they have the treatment.

“Without donors, there’s no way to survive this,” she said. “So, I’m extremely grateful and thankful for everybody who donates blood. They saved my life.”

Roberts said she remained in the intensive care unit for about one and a half weeks. Her kidneys failed completely at one point, and she had to have dialysis.

With the help of plasmapheresis and donated plasma, Roberts was eventually able to leave the ICU and move into a step-down unit — a section of the hospital for patients who have left intensive care but aren’t ready to go home yet.

She remained in the hospital for about three and a half weeks, and she returned home two days before Christmas 2014.

Roberts said she survived her bout with HUS because she had good doctors, and her age and general good health were on her side. She said blood donations also played a crucial role in her recovery.

“I would have died without it (donated blood),” she said. “No doubt.”

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