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Airica Tyler arrived a bit early–three and a half months early, in fact. And, at two and a half pounds, she was a real lightweight. Still, in the neonatal unit she was one of the biggest babies in the bunch.

But Airica’s story starts a few hours before she was placed in “a big Petri dish” according to her dad Sean, hooked up to monitors and machines to help her too young lungs function. It begins when Sean got home from his job as the midnight to 6:00 a.m. disk jockey at a Kansas City radio station. His wife was waiting for him at the front door.

“We have to go to the hospital,” she said. “I’m having pains.”

At the hospital, doctors tried to stop the birth. When they were unable to stop it, they transferred Sean’s wife to another facility where more specialized care was available. By this time it was afternoon. With his wife stabilized, Sean went home for some muchneeded sleep.

A phone call woke him early in the evening. The baby had arrived. Sean rushed to the hospital where he was allowed to see his tiny infant girl. As he walked into the neonatal intensive care unit, alarms began buzzing and beeping, indicating that his daughter was in trouble. He reached under the plastic shield covering her, and she grasped his pinkie finger. Immediately, the alarms went silent.

Still frightened, Sean was also full of questions. What would happen to his new child? What could he expect over the next days and weeks? How could he help care for this new life?

One thing he learned right away was that his daughter needed blood and a call had gone out to the Community Blood Center to supply it.

Sean was no stranger to the Community Blood Center. As a committed donor, he had donated nearly four gallons over the years. But never once did he imagine that his own precious baby would be saved by the very blood center he chose to support. The reason for giving came home to Sean Tyler that night in a way that touched him deeply.

Airica is in fifth grade now. She likes math, even though she says she isn’t all that good at it. She’s really good at social studies, though, and she dances–ballet, tap and jazz. Reading is high on her list of best things to do, too. The Spiderwick Chronicles and the Goddess of the Night series are her favorites.

Airica understands the significance of what happened when she was born. She also knows that one day, when she’s old enough, she’ll give blood too.

She’ll do it, she says, “to save someone’s life,” just the way her own was saved the night her father fully realized how important donating blood can be.