CHICAGO (WLS) -- For some, the act of giving blood can be a frightening challenge. But a young woman from Western Springs said a life-changing event helped her overcome her fear.
Jaclyn Puccini, 24, is now a blood and bone marrow donation advocate.
"Something about it just - I just have this fear. So, doing this, I really realize how much braver I am," Puccini said.
Two years ago, Puccini gave blood for the first time at a Great Chicago Blood Drive downtown. She and her sister wanted to honor their mother, Joyce Puccini. She received a bone marrow transplant and has now been in remission from leukemia for more than two years.
"Of course, I got really lightheaded. I had to be placed back on the stretcher because I was kind of psyching myself out. But I ended up doing it, and it went great," Puccini said.
But she didn't stop there. Neither Puccini nor other family members were a match for her mother, so she registered as a blood marrow donor in order to give back to another family.
"So I always thought, 'How am I going to repay this complete stranger?' I was probably going to spend the rest of my life trying to figure it out. But luckily, that answer came to me and I was able to do the same that someone did for my mom and give back too," Puccini said.
She has not had a chance to meet her recipient. Puccini only knows that she's a 5-year-old girl.
"I probably think about her like once a day. I just wonder how she's doing. She's like a part of me now," Puccini said.
"It makes me very happy to know that she did this someone for else - that a parent would never want to go through," Joyce Puccini said.
Jaclyn Puccini continues to encourage and inspire people to give blood by sharing her story through "Be the Match", the national bone marrow program.
"When you give blood, you literally feel so special," Jaclyn Puccini said. "I just think, 'Why are we on this earth if we're just living for ourselves and not giving back?'"
Help save lives by donating blood at this year's 5th Annual Great Chicago Blood Drive on Jan. 16 at one of three locations: the CDW in Vernon Hills, on the seventh floor for the Merchandise Mart and the Drake Oak Brook Hotel. Each location will be open 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Make an appointment by downloading the American Red Cross Blood Donor App by visiting redcrossblood.org (enter sponsor code: ABC7Chicago) or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).
Western Springs woman overcomes her fear to donate blood, save lives