By Carrie Pitzer
Marian Shabram doesn't remember much about that dreadful October afternoon when she was shot in the chest outside of an Omaha hospital.
But the Neligh woman knows why she's still here to talk about it -- the kindness of strangers. And that's why she's willing to share her painful story today and to serve as a reminder as to why blood donations are invaluable.
"I wouldn't be here today if not for blood," Marian said. "The kids were told they replaced my blood twice during surgery."
First Act Of Kindness
Marian Shabram remembers leaving Immanuel Hospital at about 1:30 p.m. on Oct. 27, 2008. Her husband, LeRoy, was going through chemotherapy treatments and had surgery on his arm due to the cancer. He was to be released the next day but encouraged his wife to "have some fun and go shopping" with her sister.
Somewhere between the hospital exit and her vehicle, the Shabram family's world changed. Marian said a man came from behind her and grabbed her purse. Her first reaction was to pull it away.
"I was stubborn and wasn't going to let him have it, so I guess at that point, he shot me," Marian said.
The gunshot was square in her chest, striking her aorta. Marian remembers nothing about this but was told a woman who had been dropping people off at the hospital ran to her with a pillow and pressed it to her chest.
That was the first act of kindness by a stranger.
"I don't think I would have survived if not for that young gal who jumped out of the van with that pillow," Marian said. "She came to the hospital later to see me and said the blood was just gushing. Really, she is probably the person who saved my life. Had she not taken action, I'm sure I would have lost too much blood."
Second Act Of Kindness
Although Marian was shot outside of a hospital, Creighton University actually served as that day's trauma center. She had several injuries, including her esophagus and throat. But the aorta took priority.
"They didn't worry about the other injuries because they didn't think I would make it through the surgery," she said.
The average body has 10 pints of blood, and Marian's blood supply was replaced twice. One pint of blood is given during donations, so that's a minimum of 20 people who helped keep Marian alive just during that first surgery.
Her daughter, Sara Alder, said she's thought about the people who were in the hospital waiting room at the same time they were. She's often wondered how many of them had family members who needed blood then, too.
"What if there had been a shortage?" Sara said while shaking her head. "As fast as they were putting blood in her, it was coming out. My mom is alive today because of that blood."
More surgeries followed. More blood transfusions followed, too. And today, the bullet remains lodged near Marian's spine because doctors believe it's more dangerous to remove it than leave it in.
"It's still in my back and shows up on x-rays and when I go through the airport," she said.
Third Act of Kindness
Maybe it was because Marian was from a small town. Maybe it was because her husband was hospitalized with cancer. Maybe it was because she is such a sweet person.
Whatever the reason, Marian's story was big news and people all over the country were praying for her. Strangers in Omaha held a benefit for her. People wanted to help as much as they could.
"I heard from people as far away as California. People wrote letters," Marian said. "We had a lot of support from friends and family."
And strangers, too. Marian said the young woman who held the pillow to her chest visited her in the hospital, and they stayed in contact for several years.
Marian doesn't really like to talk about what happened. It's not just the shooting - it's because less than two months later, she lost LeRoy.
"If I didn't have a scar on my chest, I probably wouldn't think about it at all. I have forgiven the person who did it and have tried to forget that part of my life," she said. "It was an unhappy time with Leroy, and I really feel he died prematurely. He would have lived longer, but the trauma of me being hurt took him downhill. He passed away Dec. 14 of that year."
Marian is only reliving this horrible time because there is such a need for blood donations. The Red Cross is continuously falling short of its goals, but the need doesn't decrease.
"The Red Cross continues to have an emergency need for blood and platelet donors to give now and help save patient lives,” said Anna Sanderson, Donor Recruitment Director of the Midwest Blood Services Region. “We are grateful for those who have already stepped up this summer to give and want to remind those who are eligible that hospital patients are still counting on them to roll up a sleeve.”
Marian has since started donating blood again. She had to wait until a year had passed after her last surgery and has been regularly giving since 2010. Not surprising at all, Marian was a supporter of blood donations long before she needed it.
"There is no way to manufacture blood, so it has to be given by a human being," she said. "I've always felt a need to be a part of that. I came from a large family, and I remember my mom telling us we have to give blood because there are a lot of us and you never know when you need it."
Marian has given over 16 pints of blood to the Red Cross, and she can recite the statistics behind her donations like clockwork.
"Your blood can help three people. If necessary, they can divide it into three components and help three different people live a healthy life," Marian said. "For an hour to hour and 15 minutes of your time, you can save three lives. I know I wouldn't be here today without it."
Marian has not only shown the mercy of forgiveness, but she continues to be kind by donating blood.
Sara Alder said giving blood was never really an option. It's just what the Shabrams did, and they continue today, especially since they've seen the importance of it.
"Even before all of this happened, all of us kids gave blood," Sara said. "Other than finding out when mass times are, we find out when the blood mobile is. That's what we do. People don't understand until they need that blood how very important it is. Without people giving blood, my mother wouldn't be alive."
Both Marian and Sara are quick to point out that Marian's situation isn't the average one. Thankfully, most people who need blood in the area haven't been shot.
One of the most common reasons for needing blood is the way her father did -- blood transfusions due to cancer. And everyone knows someone with cancer, so there's a good chance someone you know, even in passing, needs blood right now.
"Blood helped not only my mom, but my dad," Sara said. "He needed blood often because of his cancer, so for our family, giving blood is a huge thing. It's not something you think about it; it's something you do."
Sara admitted there are times she's really too busy to go donate blood, but then she remembers why she does give. She thinks of her mom and her dad. She thinks of how important blood was to both of them.
"You have to stop and make the time because if you don't make the time, it could cost somebody their life. That's how I look at it. Is what I'm doing at work a life and death situation or can I take that hour to go? I do because it could be life or death for someone."
There are several blood drives this week in the area: