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Inspired by mom, D’Evelyn student donates blood for first time

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By Deborah Swearingen

It was never really a question for Sam Belmonte.

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As soon as the rising junior at D’Evelyn Jr/Sr High School turned 16, he arranged to donate blood for the first time.

His desire to do so comes from his mother, Kristin, who required many blood transfusions during two separate but equally dangerous pregnancies.

Eighteen months after Sam was born, Kristin prepared to deliver her second child — this time a girl. The day before her due date, Kristin began having hemorrhages and seizures. She had a rare condition called amniotic fluid embolism, in which amniotic fluid enters the blood stream of the mother and triggers a serious reaction. The condition affects one in 40,000 pregnancies and has an 80 percent mortality rate for mothers. However, after 26 blood transfusions, Kristin and her daughter made it with no lasting complications.

“The fact that I survived is pretty incredible,” she said.

Nine years after that, when pregnant with twins, she had another rare pregnancy complication called twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome where abnormal blood vessel connections form in the placenta and allow blood to flow unevenly between the babies. In this pregnancy, Kristin lost a child and required 16 blood transfusions.

Both experiences inspired Kristin to give back. She began coordinating blood drives and volunteering with LifeSource, a blood donation company in Chicago, and now works as a donor recruitment representative for Bonfils Blood Center.

Sam has never been forced to give blood, but it’s something that he decided to do on his own. He helped coordinate a second blood drive at D’Evelyn and donated his first pint at Bonfils Southwest Blood Center in Littleton on June 14.

“It’s a really proud moment,” Kristin said. “ … It’s a pretty cool feeling as a parent to know that you’ve made an impact … in a different way than just, you know, raising your kid.

“We’ve definitely taken a bad situation and made it our family’s mission.”

Since it was his first donation, Sam was a bit nervous. But as a Bonfils phlebotomist wrapped a piece of lime green gauze around his arm, signaling the end of the donation, he said it felt good knowing he helped someone out.

And help he did. Each whole blood donation is broken down to help in different ways, and Bonfils says one donation generally can help up to three patients.

According to Liz Lambert, marketing and communications specialist with Bonfils, donations drop by as much as 20 percent in the summer, so donors are often encouraged to donate as much as possible throughout the year to help during shortages.

“Especially in the summer, it’s meaningful and necessary,” she said. “Those patient needs don’t go away.”

Contact reporter Deborah Swearingen at dswearingen@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1042. Follow her on Twitter @djswearingen.