During Amy Jolly’s heart surgery in 2012, doctors discovered she had Von Willebrand’s disease, a blood disorder that affects clotting properties.
Doctors also learned the now 27-year-old Concord resident and UNC Charlotte graduate had an immune deficiency, which required blood to go through a special cleaning process before it would be compatible with her.
While unconscious, Jolly needed more than 16 units of blood. The average adult has 10 to 12 units of blood in their body, according to the American Red Cross.
“Basically, they ran out of compatible blood,” Jolly said. “So they sewed me up, put ice on me and called the Red Cross to get more blood. … They basically told my parents and friends and family to cross their fingers.”
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Two years after the surgery, Jolly is alive and well. As a way to give back, Jolly donated blood for the first time on Jan. 20, as part of UNC Charlotte’s sixth annual 49ers For Life blood drive.
The 49ers For Life drive is the largest American Red Cross blood drive in Mecklenburg County, said Natividad Lewis, a spokesperson for the Red Cross.
“When I was done with surgery, all the blood in me came from other people’s donations,” Jolly said. “It just goes to show how somebody taking an hour out of their day, missing their lunch to come do something like this, saves peoples’ lives. It really does.”
Jolly tried to donate once before this event but was denied because of low blood pressure. During the recent drive, it took effort from the phlebotomist, who spent nearly 30 minutes trying to find a compatible vein.
“It took forever, but I was determined not to get out of the chair until I was able to donate a pint of blood for somebody else,” Jolly said. “An hour of your time is somebody’s life and you don’t realize that until you hear people’s stories like mine.”
January also is National Blood Donor Month, which has been observed since 1970 with the goal of increasing blood and platelet donations during winter months, Lewis said. Because of seasonal illnesses and bad weather that can cause drives to cancel, demand for donations often increases during this time.
The 49ers For Life drive began in 2010 to help answer the need for blood during winter months, Lewis said. The drive collected 436 pints of blood during its first year and organizers set a goal to collect 950 pints this year but fell short, only collecting 800 pints.
The drive has collected 3,650 pints of blood since it began. Because each pint of blood can help save up to three lives, the university’s blood drive has touched roughly 10,950 lives, Lewis said.
Cameron Baucom, 21, serves as the president of Lambda Chi Alpha.
“I’m not quite sure how the blood drive was started but I know … Lambda Chi Alpha helped resurrect it,” Baucom said. “The blood drive differs from other fraternity events because all brothers play a role from getting people to sign up, donating blood themselves, working through out the day and closing and cleaning up at the end of the day.”
All 74 fraternity members play some sort of role in the drive, which has become a fraternity tradition.
“As soon as you join Lambda Chi Alpha, you know about the blood drive,” Baucom said. “I want people to know the blood drive makes a difference no matter your role in the event. The mission is to save lives and help people and the blood drive accomplishes that year after year.”