'I knew this was the last breath I was going to take': Chicago woman with rare condition shares how blood donations helped save her life

CHICAGO (WLS) -- It's no secret blood donations save lives, but for one local woman, it all became too real when a very rare condition sent her to the hospital in desperate need for blood transfusion.

Nancy Spira said she knew she was dying but what she didn't know was that the kindness of strangers would be the key to saving her life.

"At one point I knew this was the last breath I was going to take," Spira said.

A split second decision to head to the ER gave Nancy a chance to live. A rare condition that causes an abnormal blood vessel to leak into her airway forced her to undergo emergency surgery.

"I never had any symptoms prior to this happening," she said. "I never had any pain, didn't feel sick, so nothing was going on. So it seemingly came out of nowhere."

"She was losing all that blood in circulation. We had to give a lot of blood transfusions to her to maintain the function of the organs, so these were the immediate tasks that we had to accomplish to save her life," said Dr. Ankit Bharat at Northwestern Medicine.

Doctors were able to repair the vessel and save her, but the key to that success was having the blood they needed on hand.

"That is a real problem, if there was no blood I really don't think we could have saved her life," Dr. Bharat said.

"What I do know [is] that if I hadn't had it I would have died," Spira said. "So all of these things protected me from dying. I could have died if any one of those things had not fallen into place."

Knowing that, Spira is grateful and hopes her story will encourage more people to donate blood.

"I would say that it's a pin prick that could save somebody's life and it's something that without many people would be die, not just me, many people would die without the gift of blood," Spira added.

If you would like to help others like Spira, you can stop by one of our four locations to donate blood at this year's ABC 7 Great Chicago Blood Drive happening Wednesday, January 15.

For more information or to make an appointment, CLICK HERE.

The ABC 7 Great Chicago Blood Drive is the largest one-day Red Cross blood drive in the country!
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