One might think it hyperbole when Dan Rozen describes his daughter, Sophie, as a miracle. That judgment would last only as long as it takes him to tell her story.
The short version is that were it not for blood donations, there would be no Sophie. “To meet Sophie is to really meet the gift,” Rozen said.
The long version can take him about 20 minutes to tell, and be sure to have tissues at the ready, for both of you.
Two days shy of her 2006 delivery date, Heather Rozen, awoke to every expectant mother’s worst nightmare. Something did not feel right: Their normally active baby was not moving. Her husband acquiesced to a visit to their doctor that he thought would be followed by an afternoon of Christmas shopping.
His optimism was not long lived. The baby’s fetal heart rate was sinusoidal, a rare “... ominous pattern ... [that] is associated with high rates of fetal morbidity and mortality,” according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.
The cause was what the National Center for Biotechnology Information describes as a “Fetomaternal hemorrhage ... the entry of fetal blood into the maternal circulation before or during delivery ... which may have devastating consequences for the fetus such as neurologic injury, stillbirth, or neonatal death.”
After an emergency C-section delivery, Sophie was so depleted of blood, her treatment team could not even draw enough to determine her blood type. This necessitated her being given the universal, O-type negative that only 7 percent of people in the U.S. have.
That rare gift of life bought much-needed time, “She was critical but stable, on a ventilator, fully intubated and still being transfused, with 11 lines coming out of her,” he said. “There was one little place on her leg where I could touch her, and I just kept stroking her leg saying, ‘Come on baby keep fighting’.”
Fight she did, and aided by folks, some known, some unknown, Sophie defied what seemed to be insurmountable odds. It was a victory that surprised even her doctor, neonatal specialist Torunn Rhodes, who said, “Mr. Rozen, I am a scientist, and I am an empirical person. I don’t use words like `miracle,’ but if I did, I would.”
Rozen doesn’t bother with such restraint, especially in regard to those who had donated blood, blood that was on the shelf when Sophie needed it.
“She would not be here without the gift of blood,” he said. “She began her life with 70 percent of other people’s blood, that’s the gift ... Those people who gave ... are angels, who were looking out for her and didn’t even know it.”
Dan and Heather Rozen admit they never appreciated the critical importance of donating blood before Sophie.
“I probably never gave it a second thought until it was important to us,” Heather Rozen said.
A lesson all Rozens will never forget.
“It’s really important, because people need blood,” Sophie said. “Give blood right now,” chimed in her big brother, Jake.
Sympathetic to folks who are afraid of needles, one of the most common reasons cited by people who do not donate, Sophie and Jake offered this advice:
“Just close your eyes,” said Jake.
“It’s going to be all right,” intoned Sophie, no fan of needles herself. “Just close your eyes and pretend of cupcakes and rainbows.”
Understandable apprehension aside, the Rozens hope residents will remember Sophie the next time they see a blood drive and think, “I just don’t have time to stop by today.”
“We don’t know it, it could be today, it could be tomorrow, but at some point we’re all gonna have someone in our lives . . . who needs blood,” Rozen said. “If we don’t give it, and they don’t have it, that might just be the reason someone doesn’t make it.”