Injury drives home need for blood
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on November 29, 2010 1:46 PM
Teresa Williams knows how to respond in a crisis -- with calm, quiet strength.
It's worked for the 22 years she has been with the Wayne County Chapter of American Red Cross, first as a volunteer and later as emergency services director.
She has spent many hours comforting families whose homes were destroyed by fire or a tornado, letting them know that the Red Cross would take care of them. She also worked endlessly to ensure an adequate supply of blood for emergencies.
But nothing could have prepared her for the day she would be on the receiving end of those same services.
Her life changed in the blink of an eye on a Sunday night in late September when her oldest child was involved in an accident in Raleigh.
Becky Price-Tilley, 35, was a passenger on a motorcycle struck head on by a drunken driver. Her friend died that night. Ms. Price-Tilley was taken to Wake Medical Center, where she spent 28 days in intensive care, underwent 15 surgeries and is still being treated for extensive injuries, including the loss of her left foot.
There is nothing more chilling than being on the phone when such a call comes in, says Chuck Waller, executive director of the local American Red Cross.
"One thing I try to tell people is, disaster is personal -- it doesn't have to be Hurricane Katrina to qualify as a disaster," he said. "The one thing that resonates with us is that this hits very close to home because it's Teresa, but it was also that disaster can happen in the twinkling of an eye. Her life turned upside down, it wasn't her fault, it wasn't Becky's fault."
When Mrs. Williams first arrived at the hospital, her daughter's condition was critical.
"They didn't know if she was going to live or not. Four days we were in limbo."
Her daughter's injuries included broken bones in both legs and her breast bone and ribs to damage to her liver, kidneys and adrenal glands.
But despite the trauma of seeing her daughter's broken body, Mrs. Williams said she managed to stay calm.
"I was not upset. I think that's because of my God, because I knew that He was going to take care of it. I did not fall apart, I didn't call anybody crying and screaming. He has carried me through this. It may be some of the training (I've had), too, but the biggest thing has been God. He has given me a peace about this whole thing. I have been able to accept and go on with anything that happens.
"I'm sure that the time's going to come when all this hits me. I think I'm still running on auto pilot and I probably will be until we get her out of the hospital."
Ms. Williams spent the first six weeks by her daughter's bedside before returning to work.
"The chapter has been wonderful to me, Chuck has been wonderful to me," she said. "Family comes first."
"And Teresa's our family," Waller said.
Her daughter is currently receiving rehabilitation services, which will continue upon her release in the coming weeks. It will not be easy, Ms. Williams said, because in addition to losing her left foot, Becky's right foot was crushed so badly, it will likely take six to eight months to heal.
With each passing day, it has seemed like another problem or complication popped up, including the need for blood.
"She received 70 pints of blood and blood products," Ms. Williams said. "Seventy units -- it was very astonishing to me. ... The fact that they needed that, my God. I had them count it in the room and then we started keeping up with every pint that they had. I just could not believe it because how many pints does the body have?"
The average person has 10-12 pints of blood in their body, Waller said.
"So it's seven times that," Ms. Williams said. "I have helped with blood drives, given blood, recruited blood, but I never thought it would be for my child.
"I think it makes me understand better on what the other side's like and I can now, when I'm talking with people that I work with, I can let them know that I have been on their side and I know how hard it is to take (help) but sometimes you just need to."
The amount of blood Becky needed is equal to about the same amount collected by two blood drives, Waller said.
"We generally collect about 6,500 units a year in Wayne County," he said. "They have an average of about 35 to 40 units (at each drive)."
"So she used everything that we would get in two blood drives for this chapter," Ms. Williams pointed out. "I can't imagine, what if the blood hadn't been there?"
She said she now understands how important each donation is.
"I would like to have more people go and donate blood because somebody's -- 70 somebodies -- blood saved my child's life. I'm just trying to make sure that when somebody's child needs 70 units of blood, they'll have it,"
Waller said there is a special need for extra blood during the holidays. This time of year, blood bank supplies are typically low.
"Blood supplies get a little soft this time of year because people are so tied up with the holidays and the family gatherings and traveling and so forth," he said. "So this is a prime time while you're sitting back and counting your blessings -- find a blood drive and go out and donate.
Overall, her daughter is progressing well, Mrs. Williams said.
"Her goal is to come home and take care of her daughter," Mrs. Williams said, referring to 16-year-old Holly Price, a senior at Rosewood High School. "My granddaughter, she gave blood for the first time after this happened."
Others have also rallied with fundraisers for the family, including Bikers for Christ and a motorcycle group out of Smithfield, as well as First Pentecostal Holiness Church, where Becky's father, Donnie Capps, attends.
The outpouring of support, be it anonymous blood donors who responded to the family's plight or efforts rendered by family and friends, is not lost on Ms. Williams, who admitted she has had to learn to be a gracious receiver.
"I help people, I don't get help," she said. "It helps me understand why people don't want my help. But I'm trying to remember what I tell them when they don't want my help. 'This is not charity. This is from people who care about you and want to help you.' That has been one of the hardest things for me to do."
Waller said the situation reminds him of a favorite saying: "It can never be a perfect day until you can do something for someone who will never be able to repay it."
"That's (applicable to) the blood donor because they have absolutely no way of knowing where it's going to go," he said.