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Transfusion recipient a passionate advocate for blood drive

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GREENFIELD — For Tabbatha Alcorn, spearheading the annual blood drive at Greenfield Central Junior High School is much more than a class project.

For Alcorn, 28, the endeavor is a way to say thanks to a stranger she’ll never meet, the one who donated the blood for a transfusion that saved her life nine years ago.

Alcorn, the school’s health assistant and adviser to the journalism club, had a high-risk pregnancy and experienced complications during delivery.

Alcorn’s son, Mitch, was born healthy, but Alcorn lost a large volume of blood. She had been in the hospital for a week before doctors discovered her blood level was critically low.

“My system started shutting down,” she said. “They thought my blood would start regenerating on its own, and it didn’t.”

When doctors discovered Alcorn was in desperate need of blood, her father was the first to volunteer, but there was no time to take and process new blood.

Instead, like so many patients in her situation, Alcorn depended on the existing blood bank.

When people complain about the donation process – that they don’t like needles or the bruises that can accompany them – Alcorn tells them someone’s bravery saved her life.

“If someone would have been scared of needles … nine years ago, then I wouldn’t have gotten the blood that I needed right when I needed it,” she said. “If I would have had to have waited, … then I wouldn’t be here.”

At the time, Alcorn had never donated blood or thought much about it. Now, she’s a willing donor, but because she is critically anemic as a result of her experience, she is ineligible.

Not that she hasn’t tried.

“I continue to try, and I’m turned down,” she said. “Last year, they said, ‘Not only can you not donate, but you need to go get some. … I was on the verge of needing another transfusion.”

Still, each year, Alcorn and her son attend the blood drive and thank donors for their time and contribution.

This week, Alcorn coordinated efforts with students to make posters for the upcoming third annual drive, which is Tuesday at the junior high.

Catherine Hoffman, one of Alcorn’s students in the journalism club, said everyone in her family donates blood and she looks forward to turning 16 so she can join them.

“Every single time you donate blood, someone thanks you from the inside out,” said Catherine, an eighth-grader. “It’s very important to many people. It’s a simple thing.”

Catherine has been in Alcorn’s journalism club for two years. She said she shares Alcorn’s story while recruiting donors for Tuesday’s drive.

“I think giving a relatable story to people is the thing that really triggers that mental image of how much it’ll help,” she said. “It’s not my uncle who lives in Dallas.”

While junior high students are too young to donate blood, they can help spread the word about the event to the community, and that’s what the journalism club is all about, said Shelby Cass, 13.

“It’s sharing news, and so we thought it’d be really good for the kids,” she said.

The benefits of donating blood are far-reaching and long-lasting; no one knows that better than Alcorn and her family.

“I was dying,” she said. “It didn’t just affect me. Someone, a complete stranger donating blood nine years … also gave my dad back his little girl. It gave my sister her best friend.”

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