In order to promote awareness of the upcoming 15th Annual Okeechobee Blood Roundup to be held at the Freshman Campus Auditorium on Nov. 21 and 22, we share stories of local Okeechobee folks who have received donations of blood and the difference it made in their lives.
Before she retired, Toni Wiersma spent a total of 37 years with the Okeechobee County school system. In 1976, she began teaching math at the high school, then worked in the guidance department. She took five years off after the birth of her twin daughters in 1981, then went back to the high school where she taught math, worked in dropout prevention and became assistant principal. She moved to the Freshman Campus as the principal, then went back to the high school where she was principal for eight years. She finished up her career as director of guidance at the high school and spent the last three years as director of student services for the district.
While giving birth to her daughters in 1981, Toni began hemorrhaging and required a total of seven units of blood to replace that which she lost. Toni knows how very important it is to have a steady supply of blood. Inspired by their mother’s story, Toni’s daughters, Helen, who is a biochemistry professor at IRSC, and Jo Anna, who works in Washington, D.C., and has two children of her own, donate blood every year. If blood had not been “on the shelf” when Toni needed it, Helen and Joanna would have never known their mother and the Okeechobee County students would have never known Mrs. Wiersma.
In all of the stories we have shared, several themes are common: All of those who received blood and blood byproducts are very thankful for the people who donated that blood; many of those who received blood often donate and encourage those who can donate to do so. Recipients of blood remind us that you cannot predict when you or a loved one may need a blood transfusion or an infusion of blood byproducts; and, most importantly, those who donate blood are heroes in the eyes of the recipient and their loved ones.
Here are some facts you may not know: Blood must be donated; blood cannot be manufactured; effective and safe synthetic or artificial blood has not yet been invented; and one unit of blood has the potential to save three lives.
Please thank Toni for sharing her story by donating the gift of life — your blood — at the 15th Annual Okeechobee Blood Roundup on Nov. 21 and 22, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Freshman Campus Auditorium. All blood donors will receive a commemorative Roundup T-shirt, a $10 gift card and a $5 Golden Corral certificate. Make an appointment on line at OneBlood.org.