By Steve Costello
As a former journalist who has seen a lot over the years, I’m not one to be easily impressed or inspired. But as Gordon Dritschilo wrote (Gift of Life kicks off, Dec. 11) Stefanie Schaffer has recently done both.
Read on, and I hope you’ll be inspired by Stefanie as well – enough to sign up for the last day of the Gift-of-Life Marathon. The need for blood is real, and we have 175 openings for the final day of the drive, Dec. 20, at the U.S. Army Reserve in Rutland Town.
If you haven’t heard Stefanie’s story, here’s a synopsis: Stefanie was a typical 22-year-old college student. She was somewhat shy, and found public speaking difficult. But she was enjoying life and doing what was expected of her, though in her own words, she rarely challenged herself to be more than average.
She is anything but average today.
In June 2018, a boat explosion left the 22-year-old Rutland woman with a head injury, spinal cord damage and paralysis, numerous broken bones, failing kidneys, and the loss of both legs. Her injuries required so much blood that her medical records don’t quantify the volume; they simply refer to a “massive transfusion protocol.”
She spent a month in a coma, and awoke to be told she would probably never walk again. Due to her injuries, she could barely speak. At first, she recoiled, pulling the covers over her head, crying uncontrollably, and understandably wanting to give up.
But she didn’t. She chose to overcome her challenges. She chose to learn to speak all over again. She chose the power of positivity. She chose to prove her doctors wrong, and walk. And she began an arduous recovery that now revels in successes like swimming without legs and biking with her hands.
And here’s the most inspiring part — she chose to overcome her shyness and give up her privacy to share her story to help others, revealing the scariest moments of her life and the triumphs and love that surrounds her, and that she now fosters.
Key to her story: She wouldn’t be alive to tell it if not for countless people who donated the blood she received. Without blood, she wouldn’t have lived to commit much of the past few months to raise awareness of blood donation. She wouldn’t be alive to overcome her shyness to speak to thousands of people in speeches, radio programs, social media posts, and interviews. She wouldn’t be alive to demonstrate her grit, resilience, and grace.
I’ve had the pleasure to work closely with Stefanie, and see how she chooses, daily, to find the good in life. I’ve seen hundreds of people visibly moved by her attitude and perspective as she shares her story. And I’ve found myself giving thanks for having met her, because she makes me want to be the best person I can be as well. Stefanie has given me and so many others a new perspective on life, just as you’ll give life to some unknown person if you donate blood Dec. 20.
Steve Costello is a Green Mountain Power vice president, and with Terry Jaye, co-organizer of the Gift-of-Life Marathon.