When Teanna Bryan was a student at Skyline High School in Urbana, Missouri, she seldom missed an opportunity to donate blood whenever a Community Blood Center of the Ozarks drive came to town.
Even if she didn’t fully understand the importance of donating blood, she still wanted to help others.
“When you’re in high school, you don’t really realize what you’re doing,” Teanna said. “You give blood because you save three lives and you get a free shirt. I thought I was doing a good thing – and it is a good thing – but I don’t think you realize the impact you have on each individual family.”
By the time she returned to the school as a full-time teacher, she had a much deeper understanding of just how vital every single blood donation can be. Now that she’s the school’s blood drive coordinator, she never misses an opportunity to share her story — and inspire the next generation of lifesavers.
‘SHE WAS JUST ABOUT GONE’
Teanna and her husband, Corey, were about eight weeks away from their first child’s due date when an otherwise normal pregnancy experienced its first complication: She could not feel the baby moving.
Taking no chances, Teanna rushed to the doctor — and promptly learned that she was about to be a mother much sooner than anyone had anticipated. They needed to perform an emergency C-section.
“It was kind of perfect timing on getting her out,” Teanna said. “She was just about gone.”
Doctors told Teanna her daughter, Brinlee, had suffered a fetomaternal hemorrhage in the womb. It’s a rare complication in which the baby loses an abundance of red blood cells into the mother’s circulation.
How many cells?
Doctors performed a hematocrit test on Brinlee to determine how much of her blood was made of red blood cells. A normal level for a newborn is 45 to 61 percent. Brinlee’s results were a fraction of that.
“They just kept preparing us for the worst,” Teanna said. “It was really, really critical there for a while.”
Brinlee needed an immediate full blood transfusion and subsequently received another transfusion during her 39-day stay in the neonatal intensive care unit at Mercy Hospital Springfield, one of 44 local healthcare facilities that receive blood exclusively from Community Blood Center of the Ozarks donors.
She’s alive today because someone donated at a blood drive, just like the ones Teanna now organizes.
“I want to thank them,” Teanna said. “They don’t know the impact that they’ve had on our family.”
The Bryans didn’t know it at the time, but that wouldn’t be the last time a blood donor helped them.
‘VERY, VERY GRATEFUL’
Three years after Brinlee was born, the Bryans were ready to welcome their second child.
While doctors told the Bryans what happened to Brinlee was exceedingly rare, they were monitoring Teanna’s second pregnancy much more closely — hypervigilant to any potential complications.
At 34 weeks, doctors detected an increase of fetal blood in Teanna’s circulation. A special ultrasound showed the baby didn’t have enough blood and doctors scheduled a C-section for the following day.
Her son, Brayson, received a blood transfusion during his 18-day stay in Mercy’s neonatal intensive care unit. Thanks to another Community Blood Center of the Ozarks blood donor, a second life was saved.
“It just does my heart so much good to know that there are good people in the world that do good not for fame or fortune, but just out of the goodness of their heart,” Teanna said.
During Brayson’s time in the hospital, staff remembered the Bryans from Brinlee’s visit.
They were thrilled to see the 3-year-old was happy and perfectly healthy, as they had initially feared her severe blood loss would have caused some permanent damage.
“They didn’t think there would be any way that she would come out without some kind of mental issues after losing so much blood for so long,” Teanna said. “To my knowledge, everything is good to go. It’s a blessing. It’s just been a roller-coaster, especially in the NICU. It was scary. I’m just very, very grateful.”
‘SOMETHING THAT IS SPECIAL TO ME’
Now 9 and 6, Brinlee and Brayson are both healthy and have no lingering effects from their NICU stays.
Because blood donors played such an important role in her family, Teanna was motivated to pay it forward. Unfortunately, she learned she has a medical condition that now prohibits her from donating.
“When I got that letter, I cried. I was heartbroken,” she said. “It’s just something that is special to me.”
So she found another way to help.
Since 2015, she’s served as Skyline’s student council adviser and helps organize the school’s blood drives. A former Skyline student council member herself, Teanna frequently shares her story to help inspire current students and co-workers to give the gift of life to other patients in need of transfusions.
“The people that donated for my babies, they don’t know me,” Teanna said. “That’s what I try to tell the kids in class or when I’m posting things for upcoming drives. I try to reiterate that you don’t know who you’re donating for, but the impact that you’re going to have on their life is life-changing. It’s life-saving. We would not have our babies here if someone did not donate that blood. I’m just so grateful.”
‘OUR LIFE WOULD BE TOTALLY DIFFERENT’
Another point Teanna tries to emphasize with the campus community: Her story is not unique.
One out of every seven hospital patients requires a blood transfusion, with hospitals here in the Ozarks administering a unit of blood every seven minutes. Every single donation helps someone’s loved one.
“Most stories are just like mine,” Teanna said. “Mine is not special compared to all the other ones. They’re all impactful. Each donation that is given is going to have the same effect in someone’s family. It may be a grandma or grandpa that needs the donation. It may be a baby. It may be a kid that has leukemia. But in every family, it can be a life-or-death — or a completely-turn-the-story-around — situation. I wish I could put into words how much it really is appreciated — and I just can’t. Until you’re faced with a situation like that, I don’t think you really can wrap your mind around how big a deal it is.”
To help blood donors understand the impact they’ve made in their communities, the Community Blood Center of the Ozarks recently launched a Thank-the-Donor program. This allows blood recipients or their loved ones to send an anonymous, electronic message to the person who donated the blood.
“My note would be completely tear-stained,” Teanna said. “You just never know the impact that you’re going to have. I wouldn’t have a daughter that gets to play basketball on Saturdays or a son that gets to go fishing and hunting. Our life would be totally different if we didn’t have those donors donate blood.”
Donating blood with the Community Blood Center of the Ozarks allows more than 40 local hospitals to continue to provide lifesaving treatment to friends, neighbors and loved ones here in our communities. There is no other organization that supplies blood and blood products to these hospitals, who rely exclusively on CBCO donors to help patients like Brinlee and Brayson. What kind of stories will your donation inspire? Click here to find a drive near you.