Near-death medical onslaught brings Muskego woman closer to blood that supported recovery

By Laura McGuire, American Red Cross

Two heart attacks, one stroke, stage 5 liver and kidney disease, an official diagnosis of hemolytic anemia brought on by lupus and then considered essentially dead for seven minutes.

For most people having any one of these health events would create a life-changing moment. Shannon Estes experienced them all. The process to come through the other side, alive and well, including numerous blood transfusions – Estes can only see it as “unbelievable.”

During the next course of tests, Estes said she flatlined on the table and was considered dead for seven minutes. She was placed on life support where she remained in a medically induced coma.  

On October 25, 2021, Estes, of Muskego, was getting ready for work when she was struck with an excruciating headache, a tingling sensation down her arm and shortness of breath. A trip to the hospital diagnosed Estes with a heart attack. Her hemoglobin levels were low requiring her to receive a blood transfusion. An ultrasound to determine the blood loss came back as inconclusive and her blood levels continued to decline.  

Estes woke up three days later, on a ventilator with stage 5 liver and kidney disease. During this critical time, she was on continuous dialysis and suffered yet another heart attack plus a stroke. Her life was in jeopardy and the doctors were not optimistic. Her blood levels were still low and now they were faced with many more complications.  

Estes spent three weeks in the ICU and received multiple blood transfusions – many times having to wait 24-to-72 hours for the right match. She was diagnosed with hemolytic anemia, a disorder in which red blood cells are destroyed faster than they can be made, brought on by lupus, a disease that occurs when your body’s immune system attacks your own tissues and organs.  

Receiving Type B positive blood has given Estes another chance to live her life and she is incredibly grateful for blood donors. “The Lord works in mysterious ways,” said Estes. “It’s unbelievable to think that a few minutes of someone’s time and a little bit of their blood literally gave me a chance to see my children live their lives.” 

Estes is recovered, back to work and walking about a mile a day. She works at the Muskego Circle Community Center where she hosts local American Red Cross community blood drives throughout the year.  

“Before my personal experience, I have to admit that I never understood how a blood drive could impact so many lives,” said Estes. “Now I’m honored to be able to provide a space for you to do it.” When asked about encouraging others to donate, Estes said, “I’d like them to consider what they’d hope someone would do for their loved ones should they ever be in a situation like mine.” 

The Red Cross of Wisconsin region provides numerous opportunities for eligible blood donors to give blood this summer. That includes two signature drives, each with summer style and giveaways:

  • The 17th annual Milwaukee County Zoo Blood Drive Monday, June 27 through Wednesday, June 29 from 9:45 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. at the zoo’s Peck Center, 10001 W. Bluemound Road, Milwaukee.
  • The 22nd annual Madison Beach Days Blood Drive, Friday, July 1 from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Sheraton Hotel, 706 John Nolen Drive, Madison.

Appointments are strongly encouraged. Walk-ins will be taken as space allows.

Schedule an appointment to donate blood at an upcoming blood drive by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). You can also find ways to make a financial donation or join us as a volunteer at RedCross.org.

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