Denise was experiencing placenta previa and was scheduled for a Caesarian section. Everything seemed to be going well until she heard her new baby cry. At that instant, she began to have trouble breathing.

She was lucky to be in an operating room surrounded by a surgical team rather than a birthing room. Her difficulty breathing was the result of anaphylaxis, a life-threatening reaction to fetal tissue–and amniotic fluid embolism–that had somehow entered her bloodstream. The allergic response compromised her blood’s ability to clot, so she bled uncontrollably. Few women survive such an ordeal.

Denise required 20 units of blood and blood products to save her life. Even six months after she gave birth, she hadn’t fully recovered, but she was alive, improving and enjoying life with Ethan, the newest member of her family.

“What would have happened if the blood weren’t there?“ she asks now. “I wouldn’t be alive today. People have to realize that the person needing blood could be them or someone in their family.“

Denise works in a blood center, yet the full impact of what she does truly came home when it touched her own life. “I’ve experienced both sides of it–giving and receiving,“ she says. “It really makes me appreciate what I do for a living.“