ANNA, Ohio – Kelly Schmitmeyer is a church music director and piano teacher, and until last Christmas season, a frequent blood donor. She is still able to play despite a lingering numbness in her thumb. It reminds her to remain grateful for the “miracle” that saved her.
The Anna Rescue Squad blood drive on July 17 at Anna Elementary School marked the one year anniversary of Kelly’s last blood donation. This year, she came to watch her children donate. She is still amazed by how suddenly she went from healthy blood donor to emergency blood recipient.
“It was the day before the McCartyville blood drive. I had planned to donate,” she said. The blood drive was set for Dec. 19, 2017 at Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish, and it would have been Kelly’s 44th lifetime donation.
“I didn’t have any warning signs. I got up and didn’t feel good. I passed out,” she said. “My daughter and husband did CPR until the squad got here and took over.”
She learned later she had suffered a pulmonary embolism from a blood clot in her leg that moved to her lungs. She was fortunate that her husband Gary, a volunteer firefighter, had not yet left for work at the Honda of America plant. And that her daughter Jodie was there, just two days after graduating from the nursing program at Wright State University.
“I didn’t realize it at the time, but once we were at the hospital, I didn’t think she was going to make it,” said Gary. “From being on other calls with that… it was lucky. Our department saved two with CPR last year.”
“At the time you don’t really think about it,” said Jodie who is now a nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit at Miami Valley Hospital. “But the next day, it hit me.”
Kelly went first to Wilson Health and then Miami Valley Hospital. “My daughter said I was given six units of blood and two of platelets,” she said. Her emergency treatment included the blood transfusions and powerful clot-dissolving medications.
“I’m not sure of the exact course of events those first three days,” she said. “I was resuscitated several times. There was internal bleeding. I was at Miami Valley Hospital a total of 13 days.”
“It was very scary,” Kelly said. “I’ve been told numerous times at Miami Valley I was like a miracle. They didn’t see many people with the outcome I had. To regain everything back, I don’t know how to describe it. It’s humbling.”
Her next stop was Ohio Living Dorothy Love in Sidney for rehabilitation. She slowly gained strength and received physical therapy for numbness in her hand. She went home on Jan. 19.
“It was the answer to lots of prayers. For some reason God kept me around. It was a surprise to survive to begin with. There was not much hope in those early days.”
By March Kelly had returned to work, and to her piano lessons. “Initially I had numbness in three fingers,” she said. “I still have some in the thumb now. The doctor said it could go away, and could take up to a year.”
The suddenness of the illness is still bewildering. “It was very surprising to me, considering I’m only 47 years old,” she said. “I’m very active in what I do. I’m not sure why.”
The Schmitmeyers have always been a blood donor family. Now they are also donating for Kelly. Gary made his 58th lifetime donation at Honda in May. Jodie made her 13th lifetime donation at the Anna Rescue Squad blood drive. Kelly’s youngest son Ben, a senior at Anna High, made his eighth lifetime donation. Her daughter Mindy, a student at Ball State University, has eight lifetime donation.
“I want people to be aware of the importance of it,” said Kelly. “I’m just grateful that it was there when I needed it. There was not a shortage. It’s important for people to know for every donation they give, that could save several lives.”