Northern Michigan Team collections staffer Collette Sparks of Boyne Falls never imagined she would be working for the American Red Cross. A horrific car crash in July 1991 completely changed that. Collette was 24-years old when her vehicle was hit head-on by a truck along US-131 near Petoskey. Not only was Collette’s 6-year-old daughter in the car with her at the time of the crash—she was also six months pregnant with her second child. When emergency crews arrived on the scene, Collette was completely pinned inside the vehicle and it took workers more than an hour using the ‘jaws of life’ to get her out. Her injuries were severe—she had suffered a broken collarbone and femur, her knee was completely crushed, and she was in-and-out of consciousness. Her 6 year old daughter Trista was also hurt, but not as badly. She had a broken arm, cuts and lacerations on her legs and had suffered internal bleeding. The unborn child Collette was carrying didn’t survive the accident.
Collette and Trista spent 9 days in the hospital recovering from their injuries. Collette was facing the possible amputation of her leg and required 13 units of blood during her hospital stay. Luckily, doctors were able to save her leg, however severe damage to her knee resulted in the removal of her kneecap. More than a year of physical therapy followed. This tragic experience made a huge impact on Collette and the person she would become.
“Growing up, I never thought about needing blood,” she said. “My father died from cancer when I was 18 years old and while he required a few blood transfusions during his treatment, the need for blood didn’t hit home until my accident.”
“After my accident, I knew blood wasn’t something that could be manufactured. It felt really good knowing I could help save a life from just a little needle poke in the arm.”
That was six gallons ago.
Collette eventually went back to school to become a medical assistant. In December 2010 she was hired as a collections staff member for the American Red Cross-Northern Michigan Team.
“Everything happens for a reason,” she said. “I certainly wouldn’t have this job if it was for my accident nearly 20 years ago. I truly believe everything happens for a reason. I’ve truly come full-circle—from a blood recipient to drawing blood from other donors. I love my job.”
For more information on how you can make a difference through blood services, visit redcrossblood.org today!