Blood donation saves life of Columbus woman during sickle cell crisis

Updated: Jan. 14, 2020 at 6:41 PM EST
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - It was July 2019, one of the hottest summers on record in the Chattahoochee Valley.

The triple-digit temperatures were taking a toll on Alexis Jarrett’s body, sending her into the worst sickle cell crisis of her life.

"I was near death and near organ failure. At the time, I was extremely dehydrated because of the weather and health issues I was going through. I ended up hospitalized,” explained Jarrett.

A graduate of Columbus State University and entrepreneur, who owns Alexis M. Creative Agency--helping small owners with their media and marketing for the last six years, she was in a fight for her life.

“The first day, the doctor told my family that I had to get a unit or two of blood or I was not going to make it,” Jarrett said.

Her physicians at Piedmont Columbus Regional were facing a huge challenge during treatment, considering there was a critical shortage of blood which is typical for summertime when people are vacationing.

And the same is true right now due to the holidays, according to Adelaide Kirk, executive director of the American Red Cross of West Central Georgia.

Jarrett needed a miracle as her life was racing against the clock. "It was very scary,” she recalled.

She was diagnosed as a baby with the disease that causes excruciating pain and affects hemoglobin, the molecule in red blood cells that delivers oxygen to cells throughout the body.

Due to her body building up a resistance to receiving blood for 30 years now, not only were doctors fighting to find her blood type of O-positive, that blood also had to be specially made in a lab for it to work. It was a process doctors were saying could take up to three days.

“My family was like, absolutely not, we’re going to pray it’s going to come tonight,” said Jarrett. "Their prayers were answered. I was ecstatic, excited, and happy that I could live to see another day.”

Jarrett said it took three bags of blood for her body to get back to a healthy state. Now, she and Kirk along with WTVM are encouraging people to donate blood now to help folks like Jarrett and others.

“Every unit of blood that you donate can save up to three lives and that’s the truth. And most of us aren’t given the opportunity to save lives, but you can do that by becoming a blood donor,” said Kirk.

WTVM and the American Red Cross are partnering for the Blood Saves Lives Telethon. We’re urging you to make an appointment to give blood to help ensure blood products are available for patients. The blood drive telethon will start Wednesday morning at 6 a.m.

For more information about the telethon and to make an appointment to donate, click here.