VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — With five sons, Katie Niehoff could be called the quintessential boy mom.
But six years ago, life as she knew it changed. It was 20 weeks into her last pregnancy, that Katie was diagnosed with placenta accreta-- a serious condition when the placenta grows too deeply into the uterine wall.
She delivered her son, AJ, at 35 weeks by C-section -- and lost her body’s volume of blood. Doctors used blood transfusions to save her.
"When I woke up in ICU the next day, intubated, tubes everywhere... I was so embarrassed that I had never donated blood before," said Niehoff. "And here, 14 units (of blood) from complete strangers... eventually saved my life."
So, Niehoff decided to pay it forward.
"We started planning that on AJ's first birthday, we would hold a blood drive-- which is what we did," said Niehoff. "And we've done that every year since."
Now, she's the executive director of the American Red Cross Coastal Virginia.
"I am so happy to be working with them and just living the mission every day," said Niehoff.
But the mission is not just about collecting blood donations, said Niehoff. It's about saving people and families -- like hers.
"I feel like we have to really celebrate every holiday, every birthday," said Niehoff, "because we're really just lucky that we're all still together as a family."
Niehoff said there is a critical need right now for donors of all blood types. The Red Cross also needs more volunteers. For more information, call 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733-2767). You can also visit the Red Cross website or schedule and track blood donations by downloading the Red Cross blood donor app.
Author's Note: The video below is on file from Mar. 11, 2021.