MaKenzie Schienebeck

Pictured here with her family, Park Falls resident MaKenzie Schienebeck is sharing her story of miscarriage and near-death in order to encourage others to donate blood to the American Red Cross.

By most standards, Sept. 28, 2018 was just a normal day.

The day happened to be MaKenzie Schienebeck’s 24th birthday, but after receiving the news only three days earlier that her pregnancy had ended in a miscarriage, she felt little desire to celebrate.

On medication to help speed up the process of delivering the stillborn infant, Schienebeck had woken with cramps. While her husband, Chris, got their two sons Kaelyx and Hudson ready for the day, Schienebeck took a shower.

The next memory Schienebeck has is waking up on the bathroom floor in a pool of her own blood as she severely hemorrhaged. Emergency responders rushed Schienebeck to Flambeau Hospital in Park Falls, and then transferred her by ambulance to the hospital in Woodruff.

Losing tremendous quantities of blood, Schienebeck felt a tremendous fear grip her as she recalls the sensation of her life draining away. Once at the hospital, Schienebeck was rushed into emergency surgery, nearly constantly receiving blood transfusions.

Controlling the hemorrhaging proved so difficult that hospital staff quarantined Schienebeck’s room, and she recalls buckets being placed under the bed to catch the blood.

Over the course of the emergency, Schienebeck received approximately five liters of blood transfusions — equivalent to the entire average amount of blood in a human body.

After surgery, still faint and very weak, Schienebeck lay in her hospital bed wondering if she was going to survive.

“I can't explain the feeling I had at that point … it felt like there was nothing left in me to fight with,” she said.

Uncertain if she was going to make it, Schienebeck typed a goodbye letter to her husband in her phone.

Yet survive Schienebeck did. In the following days, she was able to return home and began a slow physical and mental recovery from the experience. In the first several weeks, anxiety and depression dogged Schienebeck, who felt isolated in her experience.

“I was filled with thoughts like had I done something wrong to cause this? Was there something I could have done differently?” she recalls.

While misscarriage is startlingly common — ending between 10 to 20 percent of known pregnancies, according to Mayo Clinic — Schienebeck said she found few women who shared their own personal experiences of loss.

“I decided I wanted to speak out, and I felt like I could help others by sharing my story,” she said.

Schienebeck launched a Facebook page, Kenzie’s Journey to Change, aimed at supporting other families going through pregnancy or infant loss.

“I have people from all around the world who have messaged me with their own stories of loss,” Schienebeck said. “It's a devastating experience that could happen to anyone. It could be your sister, your mother, your neighbor, your friend. People don't like to open up about it because it seems taboo, but I don't think it should be.

“I didn't ever think this would happen to me, but it did.”

While the Facebook page offered a sense of purpose and connection with others who have gone through similar experiences, Schienebeck said she wanted to use her story to encourage others to donate blood.

Before her own close brush with death, Schienebeck said she had never given blood or even given it much thought.

By sharing her personal story, Schienebeck hopes to illustrate the direct way a blood donation can help another person — perhaps even saving a life. Schienebeck said she sees this as the next step in her recovery.

“People who donate blood helped my husband and kids keep their mother and wife … there is no artificial replacement for blood. Donors are so necessary,” she said.

In April of this year, Schienebeck reached out to the Wisconsin Red Cross, asking how she could be an advocate for blood drives.

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, July 12, there will be an American Red Cross blood drive held in the Chequamegon High School Library. Schienebeck will host the event, volunteering and helping talk first-time blood donors through the donation process. This will be her first time helping organize a blood drive.

Zachary Scott, a donor recruitment representative with the American Red Cross, said that people who have survived near-death experiences thanks to blood transfusions often take the next step in encouraging others to donate.

“There are a lot of stories out there of people who have benefited from a blood transfusion,” said Scott. “There really is no substitute for blood, so we always need people to donate.”

The American Red Cross generally experiences a decline in blood donations during the summer months when schools are out of session and people are vacationing — making it particularly important for blood drives held during the summer months, like this one.

Type O negative blood is particularly desired, according to Scott, as it is the universal blood type and can be used as a transfusion for anyone.

For first time donors, Scott explained the process usually lasts about an hour from start to finish. Donors can either make an appointment or walk in on the day of the event. Walk-ins are always welcome, according to Scott, but those with appointments will be served first.

After filling out some basic medical history, blood drive staff will take donors blood pressure and check hemoglobin and iron levels to ensure it is safe for them to give blood. Donors will then lay down and a needle placed in their arm. The actual blood drawing process usually lasts about 10 minutes, after which donors are provided juice, water, and snacks.

In the days prior to donating, Scott said people should make sure to be hydrated and eat plenty of iron-rich foods. People should wait 56 days between regular blood donations.

In order to schedule an appointment, people can reach out to Schienebeck at 715-518-3827 or visit redcrossblood.org.

Schienebeck said she sees this volunteering effort as the start of a new chapter in her life as she continues to recover from the loss of her stillborn child and subsequent near-death experience.

“I think my biggest support through my recovery has been the other women I've met after my misscarriage,” she said. “Opening up and sharing my story has made a huge difference. It has become a big support chain of women and men. Men are often forgotten in this experience, but they experience loss as well as fathers.

“I hope I inspire people to not stay quiet — if you have a story to share, don’t be afraid to speak up,” Schienebeck said.

(Copyright © 2019 APG Media)

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