Blood donors helped save life of former LifeSource volunteer
Kristin Belmonte explains what it’s like to be the face of LS coach bus
There were no warning signs or causes for concern.
Things could not have been going any smoother for Kristin Belmonte as her second pregnancy neared full term.
“I was one of those few women who actually enjoyed being pregnant,” said Kristin, whose photo is featured on one of the LifeSource blood buses. “I felt great and liked the way I looked. This pregnancy was going along easier than my first [a year earlier].”
That all changed once she went into labor in August 2003. Within five minutes, Kristin, who now lives in Colorado but was residing in Park Ridge at the time, began having seizures and started hemorrhaging. Her husband, Dave, dialed 911 and when paramedics arrived they found Kristin in dire condition.
“They pretty much grabbed me and threw me on the stretcher and into the ambulance,” Kristin said. “My blood pressure when the paramedics got me was 25/10. I was barely alive.”
Paramedics rushed her to Advocate Lutheran General Hospital where doctors learned she had suffered an amniotic fluid embolism, a pregnancy complication that causes life-threatening conditions to both the mother and her child. AFE occurs when amniotic fluid makes its way into the mother’s blood.
“It’s a real rare condition that happens in about one out of every 40,000 pregnancies,” Kristin said of AFE. “My OB/GYN had been delivering babies for 23 years and he never had one case of it.”
Thankfully her daughter Emily was born healthy and without any side effects. Kristin, however, was still fighting for her life.
“I ended up needing 26 blood transfusions before all was said and done,” Kristin said. “I was bleeding out faster than they could put blood in me.”
Doctors were eventually able to stop the bleeding and Kristin spent around a week recovering in the hospital before she was discharged.
The near-death experience made Kristin realize just how important it is to roll up your sleeve and give blood.
She donated her first pint of blood in 2005 after receiving medical clearance following her pregnancy. Three years later she arranged to have the LifeSource coach park outside her home and she invited the community to come over and give blood.
“The first year of the drive we had a great turnout and collected 43 units,” Kristin said. “It was originally only meant to be a one-time event, but it was such a success that we ended up holding it annually. Our final drive [in 2014] collected 85 units and both buses were used. It started out as just our family and friends but it grew to include many members of the community.”
Kristin gave birth to her second daughter, Lizzie, in 2006, and six years later she and Dave learned they would be expecting twins. However, 20 weeks into the pregnancy, Kristin was told one of the twins no longer had a heartbeat. While still pregnant, Kristin suffered another rare, life-threatening condition called disseminated intravascular coagulation, which led to massive hemorrhaging and another lengthy stay in the hospital.
This time Kristin required 16 blood transfusions, but was able to give birth to a healthy baby girl.
“I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for the blood donors who generously gave their time to make a donation,” Kristin said. “I can’t tell you how grateful I am to those who donate. You really are making a difference.”
Wanting to make a difference of her own, Kristin joined LifeSource as an ambassador and motivational speaker in 2004. The Hinsdale native would speak at various LifeSource events and was an integral part of the blood center’s market campaign.
A claim to fame during her 11 years with LifeSource was having her picture featured on both of LifeSource’s mobile coach buses. One of the buses contains a photo of Kristin with her four children — Sam, Emily, Lizzie and Tessa — under the phrase “These moments made possible by Blood Donors.”
“It’s pretty neat to see me and my family on the side of a bus,” Kristin said. “We ended up doing a photo shoot and it was a lot of fun. Occasionally one of our friends will see the bus and call us up and say ‘Did I just see you on I-294?’’
While her relocation to the Rocky Mountain State prompted Kristin to leave LifeSource, she remains in the business of blood distribution. Kristin has worked as a regional community donor representative at the Denver-based Bonfils Blood Center since February 2016.
“I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be working at a blood center if it wasn’t for more past experiences needing blood,” she said. “My situations were examples that anyone at any time can need a blood donation.”