“I was shocked that Red Cross has the ability to do that, especially from a donation that happened so long ago,” Sakmar said, referring to meeting the recipient of one’s blood donation. “That alone blew me away. It was phenomenal to be able to put a face on one of the units of blood that I donated. I donated through Cartersville High School’s Y-Club blood drives over the years while I taught at Cartersville High School. So [I have donated] more than 5 gallons, which means more than 40 donations.
“You know that the reason that you’re donating is that, theoretically, you hope you’ll be helping somebody or [some people] but you never know if you are. And to be able to know that one person’s life was actually saved, not just by my donation, of course, but through the donations of [more than] a 100 other people Niki Taylor’s life was saved, that was just emotionally overwhelming.”
Treated at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta after being critically injured in an automobile accident, Taylor received more than 100 blood transfusions.
“My road to recovery was long and tough and painful,” Taylor stated in a news release. “I needed many transfusions and I had dozens of operations to repair the damage caused by the accident.”
A retired Cartersville High School teacher, Sakmar learned about the importance of donating blood at an early age.
“My father had been a frequent blood donor when I was a kid growing up,” she said. “We lived just one block from our local hospital and besides donating at Red Cross blood drives, if you knew someone in the hospital who was having surgery from a car accident or one time I recall it was someone he knew who had been burned, you would go directly to the hospital and donate blood for that person.
“So I think I grew up feeling that it was a good thing to do. It wasn’t painful. It wasn’t a big bother in your day to just go and do it. Eventually, I think, I felt that it was something that ordinary people can do that is an extraordinary gift. So I started giving at the high school through their blood drive. I used to try to encourage my students. They were all juniors and so almost all of them were old enough to give without even bothering with parental permission. So I tried to encourage kids to get started on it while they were in high school.”
For Sakmar, Wednesday’s meeting stressed the medical community’s constant need for blood donations, thus reinvigorating her desire to regularly contribute.
“It’s something that everybody ought to do,” Sakmar said. “I think I didn’t realize until I heard from several Red Cross speakers and from the surgeon who did most of Niki’s surgery how critically short [the] supply often is and how they have to scramble to contact other hospitals, other centers to get blood and the mechanics and the logistics of how it all works. That was interesting and surprising to me.
“I’ll be 64 this summer and my daughter who’s an adult had said to me recently, ‘Oh ... mom, you don’t need to be donating any more blood at your age. Take care of you; worry about your own health. Don’t worry about donating to other people.’ And one of the other women donors at the reception had said kind of the same thing that she had sort of slacked off recently but we both agreed that the reception was like a shot in the arm to us. I will start donating blood again regularly as often as I can.”