A whole new world, thanks to blood transfusions
TW: This story includes mention of the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and premature babies.
Premature babies, or “preemies,” are born before 37 weeks gestation.
Hailey Petersburg was born at 24 weeks and five days.
Considered a “micro-preemie” and weighing just one pound and seven ounces, Hailey had a 40% chance of survival and a long road ahead of her in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). She spent 133 days in the NICU, where she underwent multiple surgeries and was treated for anaemia of prematurity. “Every day was a rollercoaster,” said Hailey’s mother and Leidos Data Scientist Allison Petersburg. “She was in a critical stage where her condition changed so rapidly every day.”
Before Hailey even reached what would have been full-term at 40 weeks, she received almost two dozen transfusions, which were crucial to her treatment plan.
Hailey’s tiny body was working as hard as it could, often enduring bradycardic events where her heart was beating too slow. Her medical team provided blood and platelet transfusions to help carry oxygen throughout her body; their impact was immediate, improving Hailey’s health and significantly increasing her vital signs.
In the United States, someone is in need of blood or platelets every two seconds. For many months, Hailey was one of those people. She received blood or platelet transfusions almost daily in the first weeks of her life, decreasing over time as she grew stronger each day. “Throughout the NICU experience of being in day-to-day survival mode, the gift of blood was a vital stability for Hailey,” said Allison.
Blood and platelets can’t be manufactured and must be donated. They also have an expiration date, so there is always a need for more blood donors. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Red Cross has seen a decline in blood donations, resulting in a national blood crisis. Between blood, platelets, and plasma, “nearly 16 million blood components are transfused each year in the United States.”
“Whenever Hailey had a transfusion, she would immediately begin breathing better, her heart rate was stable. As she received blood, the bradycardic and oxygen desaturation events decreased and all her vital signs improved,” said Allison. “They were lifesaving.”
After almost four and a half months in the hospital, Hailey Petersburg was ready to go home. Fast forward five years, and now Hailey is a recent preschool graduate, who, according to her mother, “is doing absolutely amazing.”
She’s an active soccer player, swimmer, and dancer, as well as an avid Disney princess fan, currently infatuated with Jasmine from Aladdin. Allison thinks Hailey intuitively knows how hard she had to fight soon after she was born, citing her joie de vivre, “she’s just the happiest little girl.”
Hailey is an example of why it’s so imperative to donate blood if you’re able. With nearly 30,000 units of blood needed each day, the Red Cross is continually in need of donors and one pint of blood can save up to three lives.
Even during a global pandemic, Leidos remained committed to diminishing the national blood crisis, collecting more than 311 units over the past two years. Since 2016, we’ve hosted 23 blood drives at our Global Headquarters in Reston, VA, thanks to 674 donors. Other offices, including our Columbia, MD, and San Diego, CA, locations regularly host blood drives, as well as one of our subsidiaries, QTC. The Columbia Leidos office has collected 125 units of blood since 2017.
Not only is donating blood so important, but the process is very quick, only taking about 20 minutes for the physical donation. For perspective, if just 1% more of all Americans donated, blood shortages “would disappear for the foreseeable future.”
“It was clear that the donated blood Hailey received in her transfusions saved her life,” said Allison. “I don’t know if my daughter would be with us today if not for blood donors.”