Bronzeville woman living with sickle cell anemia credits blood donations with saving her life

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Every 56 days you can help save a life by donating blood and Wednesday marked 56 days until the ABC7 Great Chicago Blood Drive.

A young Bronzeville mother said she knows first-hand why blood donations are so desperately needed. She shared her story about how those donations have saved her life, over and over again.

"It's a pain that's indescribable," said Robin Newsome.

Newsome has lived with pain caused by sickle cell anemia most of her life. Those who suffer from the blood-cell deformity call the pain "pure agony."

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"The pain could be in my chest, it could be in my feet, sometimes it's all over and it just hurts a lot," Newsome described.

She said she first remembers the pain starting when she was about 2-years-old and said it hurt so much that she couldn't stop crying.

"It was a Sunday, I remember that," said Newsome's mother, Sandra Hill. "I remember taking off her church shoes because I had little black church shoes on her, and I took them off and it seem like it gave her some type of relief."

While it may have given Newsome temporary relief, it didn't take away her crying.

Her continued agonizing cries led to a trip to the emergency room and eventually to the diagnosis of sickle cell anemia.

"As a kid, I was in the hospital seems like every month, twice or maybe three times a month," Newsome said.

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She remembers one particularly rough time when she first needed a total blood transfusion.

"Because at that time I was having a crisis in my chest, which is called 'acute chest syndrome.' It was making my blood pressure low, it was just messing up everything and without getting that blood transfusion," Newsome said. "Without that exchange of the blood, I don't know what would have happened after that."

"Without that transfusion, she was not going to live," Hill said. "And she had many, many transfusions through the years, but it's something that without that blood, she was not going to live."

Newsome said before each transfusion she would once again suffer from unbearable pain.

"It's really not something you can really describe. It's awful," she said.

"It's excruciating because you cannot help them, Hill said. "It's something you cannot do. I can't do anything to just reach over and take her pain but when she gets those transfusions, guess what? She becomes better. She gets healthier and the pain, at this particular time, goes away."

Newsome and her mother said the relief is all thanks to strangers rolling up their sleeves to donate healthy blood.

"According to what doctors said, I shouldn't have made it past 18 or 19 years old. And here I am, I just made 47. And I give that to God," Newsome said.

"If people don't donate then people don't live. It's just that simple," Hill said.

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Blood donations from people like you at home have helped to save Robin's life. Right now you can register to donate at the ABC7 Great Chicago Blood Drive.

The drive will be held on January 15th and this year we have EXPANDED to four locations! We are back on the 7th floor of the Merchandise Mart and we will also return to the Drake Oak Brook Hotel. Our two new locations this year are Vernon Hills at the Sullivan Community Center and in Munster, Indiana at the Performing Arts Center.

Making your appointment is EASY! Call 1-800-RED-CROSS or click here and register to donate a location closest to you!
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