SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Many children dream of taking a trip to Disneyland, and in 2001, 1st Lt. Fanita Schmidt’s family set off to make it a reality. But the family’s dream suddenly turned into a nightmare when Arizona winds blew their minivan off the road, causing the vehicle to roll down a hill.
“I lost my brother that day,” said Schmidt, a 4th Space Operations Squadron orbital analysis engineer. “My sister’s knee cap was sliced off, my father’s ribs broke … everyone was hurt.”
Schmidt was immediately knocked unconscious. She suffered six broken bones above the hip and lost a large amount of blood.
“Because I passed out, I wasn’t able to control my body, which is why I had so many more injuries than the others,” she said.
Due to the extent of her injuries, Schmidt was airlifted to a hospital in Las Vegas, Nevada, where she could be properly cared for. Her outlook was grim at the time, she said, but doctors knew what they needed to save her life: blood.
“I was told I had less than a few hours to get a blood transfusion so that I could live,” Schmidt said. “If that wasn’t available to me, I would’ve died.”
Schmidt received a blood transfusion that helped save her life, and now, 14 years later, she said she pays it forward by donating blood every chance she gets.
“I try to go to all the blood drives I can,” she said. “I’ve even stopped myself from getting tattoos so I am actually able to donate.”
According to the Red Cross, “although an estimated 38 percent of the U.S. population is eligible to donate, less than 10 percent actually do each year.”
Schmidt encourages everyone who is physically able to donate blood.
“I do understand that it is a scary process for a lot of people to actually sit in that chair, have a needle put in and feel like a part of you is draining out, but you have to understand that it just takes a small part of you to make a whole of someone else,” she said.
The Red Cross says one pint of blood is taken during a blood donation, which can save up to three lives.
“I was a child when a blood transfusion saved my life, and look where I am now,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt insists that all it takes is time and courage to become someone’s hero — something she learned by watching her father.
“My father graduated from the first class of the Air Force Academy in 1959,” she said. “He was a fighter pilot and he actually saved a lot of people’s lives — maybe not by donating blood — but he earned four Distinguished Flying Crosses, so he’s a true hero.”
Her father’s legacy inspired her to follow in his footsteps and serve in the Air Force, she said.
“If you have the physical, mental and psychological capability to serve and help others, then why not do it?” she asked. “And that correlates to donating blood — I really do believe that even if you don’t get the chance to go into a cockpit, you can still save someone’s life.”
Donating blood is a safe process and typically takes about 10 minutes, according to the Red Cross.
“We couldn’t save lives without our donors,” said Army Lt. Col. Jason Corley, the Armed Services Blood Program deputy director of operations. “As a program, we have saved thousands of lives this year and that happened because of our donors’ support. They are the silent heroes.”