As long as he can remember, Steven Oswald has been competitive. As a youngster, he played whatever he could. Be it soccer, basketball or football, to say he was active was putting it mildly.
As he grew, the sports became more physical. Sometimes injuries would occur. That’s when he and his parents began to notice something frightening. Steven would bleed, sometimes profusely. Tests revealed that Steven had Von Willebrand disease, a fairly common and hereditary bleeding disorder.
Thousands of Americans have Von Willebrand disease, but to an active and competitive boy, the diagnosis was devastating. “I didn’t understand the disease, but I was really angry that I couldn’t play contact sports anymore,” Oswald said. “Something I wanted was being taken away from me.”
Several months later, Steven was given blood transfusions both before and right after a tonsillectomy. Two weeks after that operation, he noticed the taste of blood in his throat when he was helping his mom move some furniture. Minutes later, he began vomiting blood. By the time Steven reached the hospital, doctors estimated that he had lost half of his blood volume. He received transfusions and was stabilized.
Eight years later, Steven figured out a way to pay those blood donors back. When the honor roll student at Branson High School noticed that a Community Blood Center of the Ozarks blood drive was coming, he was approached by a teacher that remembered Steven writing an English paper on his illness. The teacher asked Steven whether he’d be willing to share his story. He did so at an assembly in front of the entire student body.
“I told people that I’m not the only life that has been saved by blood. I can’t give because of my condition, but I told everyone that they had the ability to give so people like me could live. I said that life was not a given. Not every day is promised. That you should appreciate every day and everything.”
The response at the blood drive was tremendous. Steven volunteered the entire day, served snacks, walked freshly donated blood to be processed and he held the hands of nervous first time donors. “I must have had at least ten people tell me that they were giving just because of what I had said in the assembly. I never thought it would have the impact that it did.”
Steven will graduate later this spring and attend Linn College in the fall. He’s a member of the Branson golf team, allowing him to keep his competitive juices flowing. He also still plays some other sports, but tries to be careful when he takes part. “I still get nosebleeds pretty often, but I can get them under control pretty quickly. I haven’t needed blood again, but I know that it will be there if I do. I appreciate blood donors. Please keep giving. You’re helping so many people to live a normal life.”
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