On July 6, 1996, a pivotal phone call reached Jen Lentini and her mother, forever changing their lives.
At just 13 years old, Jen was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy and found herself in a race against time as she waited for a heart transplant. The hospital became her temporary home and blood transfusions sustained her while she hoped a transplant would become available.
After three agonizing months, the call came – a 14-year-old whose life was tragically cut short became Jen's heart donor. The transplant was a success, but it marked the beginning of a lifelong connection with blood donations. During and after the transplant, vital blood donations were transfused, facilitating her recovery.
The journey didn't end there. Post-transplant, Jen faced anemia and needed additional blood transfusions to boost her hemoglobin levels. With her O-positive blood type, it was vital that blood donations from type O donors were available to support her in her time of need. In August 2023, a routine procedure turned life-threatening, requiring two O-negative blood transfusions and a plasma transfusion.
Jen, reflecting on her numerous transfusions, notes, "I can't even count the exact number I've received, probably close to 30-40 units of blood."
Heart transplant patients like Jen often require blood transfusions during surgery, and that blood must be available for the transplant to proceed. These transplants are made possible because of generous blood donors.
"I've been lucky that I've had so many people save my life throughout the years,” said Jen. “If it wasn't for blood donors, I wouldn't have lived this long."
Now also a passionate advocate for organ donation, Jen has a clear message: "Whether you're a blood or organ donor – you're not just impacting the person receiving the blood or a transplant, you're impacting everyone they're going to meet in their life. Every story, every adventure. You’re saving someone’s child, their relative, their friend."
In every drop, there lies the potential to save lives and create a ripple effect of hope and healing. As we honor Heart Health Month in February, make an appointment to give blood at vitalant.org.