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A Gift of Love

Love can be silent or spoken; seen or hidden. Palpable love, though – so strong you can almost feel it – that is the kind of love that many strive for.

It’s that kind of love that emanates from the Roberts family. And when they nearly lost everything, it was blood donors who saved them.

“It was December of 2015,” Sarah Roberts began the story, a note of sadness in her voice. The then-29-year-old was sick on and off throughout the month of December, before she and her husband, Devon, went to urgent care on Christmas Eve. She went home with a push from the doctor: get blood work done when the labs reopen.

The couple didn’t want to wait and decided to go to the emergency room…but not before wrapping gifts for their son and daughter, both toddlers. Sarah and Devon wanted everything to be ready when they got back Christmas morning.

Instead, they spent the next 75 days in the hospital.

“If we hadn’t gone in Christmas Eve night, she would have died in two or three days,” said Devon.

That’s because Sarah had leukemia. Doctors began chemotherapy right away, and started blood transfusions soon after that; the platelets she received kept her blood flowing properly. Throughout treatment, she asked her oncologist if she could go home, hoping to be back in time for her son’s 2nd birthday in January.

“That was my mindset – I’m gonna be home for my son’s birthday,” Sarah said, laughing slightly, “That part did not happen.”

Before long, it was obvious that this wouldn’t be a short-term stay for the couple, and they made the difficult decision to send their kids to be with Devon’s parents in Virginia. Soon after, an infection hit Sarah. She was put into a medically-induced coma and taken to surgery while her partner was pulled aside by doctors.

“They said it’s not good, we couldn’t get [all of the infection out],” Devon said, “But she kind of just kept holding on, defying all odds.”

During this time, the hospital they were in, Beaumont Farmington Hills, was holding a blood drive with Michigan Blood. Despite his own fear of donating, Devon made it his mission to give back.

“I knew that this blood was saving my wife’s life. And there’s someone out there that needs this blood as much as my wife does.”

When Sarah eventually woke up, her first thought was her children. “It was really hard not being able to be mom to them,” she said, wiping tears.

“You kept saying, ‘I need to be with my babies’,” he reassured.

“Yeah,” Sarah replied, giving Devon a meaningful look.

By February, Sarah was completely atrophied. She’d not only missed her son’s birthday while in her coma, but had to relearn how to do everything from sitting up in bed to speaking. One of the first things she learned to say: I love you. Devon recorded video of it to send to their kids.

Sarah learned quickly after that, and finally left the hospital in early March of 2016. Their kids arrived a few days later, and the Roberts family was reunited. They celebrated their daughter’s 4th birthday that month, with Sarah able to walk across the room before tiring out. For her, at that time, it was enough.

“I knew at that moment it was not a guarantee,” she said, “We take for granted those moments. But being able to experience that birthday after missing my son’s in such a traumatic way…it was really beautiful.”

Thankfully, she went on to celebrate their son’s 3rd birthday in style – throwing a full-on party, all of which was put together by Sarah – as well as their daughter’s 5th.

By the end of her treatment, Sarah received 79 units of blood. Devon said he plans to donate as much blood as his wife received, a feat that will take him at least 11 years.

“I have a long way to be able to make that up,” he said.

Nowadays, you’d never know what Sarah dealt with by looking at her…but there’s a love that’s palpable in the way she looks at Devon and her kids. They both credit many people with saving her life, but it’s blood donors for whom they’re especially grateful.

“The people who gave blood saved my life, and they don’t know who I am,” she said, “They allowed my children to keep their mommy. [They] saved my husband from being a widower and a single dad. And they impacted our whole family.”



Watch the Roberts family's story here: