A woman who survived an explosion that made international headlines is now issuing an impassioned plea to people everywhere to donate blood -- a gift she said saved her life.
"All that I could do was desperately fight to stay alive," Stefanie Schaffer said of the moments following an explosion that nearly killed her.
Schaffer is the Vermont dancer who lost her legs in an explosion on a tour boat while vacationing with her family in the Bahamas in 2018.
In 2019, we watched Schaffer take some of her first steps on her new prosthetics at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
But soon after, she'd discover her fight was far from over, Schaffer recalled in a speech delivered Tuesday at the Paramount Theatre in downtown Rutland.
"I had a massive open wound on my left leg," Schaffer revealed, adding that an infection and complications would mean more surgeries.
Schaffer said she has endured more than 40 surgeries since that explosion.
Finally, she said, she's now back to good health.
"It's the end of the road," Schaffer beamed, referring to her long medical journey.
Through the ups and downs of her recovery, a vital constant, Schaffer said, was the availability of blood for transfusions.
"We just assume that if we need it, it will be there," Schaffer said of the nation's blood supply. "But it takes donations."
Jennifer Costa of the American Red Cross said the organization "right now is facing a true emergency."
The organization said it hopes that, by Schaffer sharing her story, she can start to turn around a blood shortfall. The Red Cross would like to have a five-day supply for hospital partners, Costa noted.
"In recent weeks, we're at a half-day supply," she lamented. "So it is super critical."
Community volunteers in Rutland announced the return of a four-day blood drive in December called the Gift of Life Marathon, as one way to help.
The event will collect blood on Dec. 7 at the Fair Haven American Legion, on Dec. 15 and 16 at the Elks Lodge in Rutland and on Dec. 17 at the Rutland Recreation Community Center.
Appointments for the Gift of Life Marathon are available through redcrossblood.org or by calling 1-800-RED-CROSS.
"Today's story isn't just about Rutland," said Steve Costello, a longtime community volunteer for the Gift of Life Marathon. "It's about every community in the country. The blood supply is desperately low, so whether people donate here in Rutland at the Gift of Life Marathon or tomorrow in Burlington or two days from now in Boston, it's all good. It's all needed and it's all important."
As for what's next for Schaffer, in early 2022, she'll publish a book about making it through adversity, she said.