Boat Explosion Survivor Serves as Ambassador for Vt. Blood Drive

Stefanie Schaffer of Mendon said she knows just how life-saving blood donations can be

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A Vermont woman who suffered life-changing injuries last year is turning her experience into an opportunity to motivate blood donors to roll up their sleeves and give.

“This simple act of donating blood is really, truly saving lives,” said Stefanie Schaffer of Mendon.

In June 2018, a dream vacation to the Bahamas turned into a nightmare when the tour boat Schaffer was on exploded.

The now-23-year-old had to have both her legs amputated. She still doesn’t know exactly how much blood she needed from transfusions to save her life, she told necn & NBC 10 Boston Tuesday, but medical records showed her it was a lot.

“I had lost so much blood, parts of my kidneys were dying,” Schaffer said. “I desperately needed [blood] to survive.”

Schaffer has been sharing her story around Vermont’s Rutland County, leading up to the annual Gift of Life Marathon. In speaking engagements and other promotional opportunities, Schaffer has served as the event’s ambassador.

The four-day blood drive started Tuesday and continues December 18, 19, and 20.

“She is very inspiring to people—very much so,” blood donor Loreen Eddy of West Rutland said of Schaffer.

Organizers said having such a compelling and personalized connection to the need for blood helped attract donors.

“This could be the person sitting across from you at the dinner table, or your kid’s teacher, or the kid who sits next to your kid at school,” Gift of Life Marathon co-organizer Steve Costello said of the potential need for blood. “That’s what we’re trying to get people to think about, because that’s what it’s all about.”

A recent surgery for her ongoing recovery from her injuries meant Schaffer couldn’t donate blood, she said. However, to the hundreds who will donate over the course of the event, the survivor is saying thank you.

“It’s going to truly save the life of someone who has more life to live and things to achieve,” Schaffer said.

The Gift of Life Marathon continues December 18 and 19 at Rutland Regional Medical Center, and December 20 at the U.S. Army Reserve facility in Rutland, Costello said. Donors are most needed for the Army Reserve location, Costello noted.

The Gift of Life Marathon is sharing information on the community effort on its Facebook page.

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