Malia Sharkey continues to be in awe of blood donors eight years after they saved her life during a harrowing childbirth experience. Thanks to them, she and her husband, Alan, and son, Edwin, are living life to the fullest.
These days, the 23-year Air Force reservist keeps busy working fulltime at Vandenberg SFB as a civilian, being a foster parent and Cub Scout pack leader, and toting Edwin around to his many activities including golf, aerial yoga, piano, Chinese, and gymnastics.
But during Edwin’s birth, Malia almost died after suffering a rare complication known as disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC). The condition causes abnormal blood clotting throughout the body, and Malia started bleeding uncontrollably.
Malia bled so much she had no clotting factor left. Medical staff weren’t sure she’d even survive a 20-minute helicopter ride to another hospital, where doctors performed a "mass transfusion protocol" and she received 30 units of blood.
"That's what saved my life," she said. "A lot of people with DIC don't survive. The nurses were telling me ‘you almost died.’"
Malia remained unconscious for four days and spent two weeks in the hospital after her ordeal. It took her about a year to fully recover, but she hasn’t looked back – except to appreciate those 30 blood and platelet donors who saved her life.
Malia and her husband have vowed to pay their good fortune forward by donating blood regularly and doing what they can to spread the word about blood donation.
“I am always willing to help the cause that saved my life! I will never be able to pay back the debt that I owe,” she said.
Edwin is now 8 and in second grade, but when he’s old enough, Malia intends to have Edwin help pay back that debt, too. “He doesn't fully appreciate all of this yet, but he will one day and when he turns 16, we're going to march him down to the blood bank and he's going to be donating on his 16th birthday," she said.
"All these people who donate generously without knowing who gets the blood or when it's going to be used… They are amazing," Malia said.