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"A blood transfusion saved my life"

First Lt. Fanita Schmidt, 4th Space Operations Squadron orbital analysis engineer, donates blood at the 3rd Annual Blood Drive hosted by the 21st Medical Dental Squadron in the Building 300 auditorium at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2015.  Schmidt explained her decision to donate was based on personal experiences. It saved my life, she said. I'm trying to give back the way someone did for me. I believe it's a life-saving process and the organization exists to give someone else the opportunity to live a longer life, if not save a life.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Christopher DeWitt)

First Lt. Fanita Schmidt, 4th Space Operations Squadron orbital analysis engineer, donates blood at the 3rd Annual Blood Drive hosted by the 21st Medical Dental Squadron in the Building 300 auditorium at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2015. Schmidt explained her decision to donate was based on personal experiences. It saved my life, she said. I'm trying to give back the way someone did for me. I believe it's a life-saving process and the organization exists to give someone else the opportunity to live a longer life, if not save a life. (U.S. Air Force photo/Christopher DeWitt)

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Every child dreams 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, 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, 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," said Schmidt.

Due to the extent of her injuries, Schmidt was Life-Flighted to a hospital in Las Vegas, Nevada, where she could be properly cared for. Her outlook was grim, 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," said Schmidt. "If that wasn't available to me, I would've died."

Schmidt received a blood transfusion which saved her life and now, 14 years later, Schmidt donates blood every chance she gets.

"I try to go to all the blood drives I can," said Schmidt. "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," said Schmidt.

According to the Red Cross, 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," said Schmidt.

Schmidt insists, 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," said Schmidt. "He was a fighter pilot and he actually saved a lot of peoples' 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.

"If you can do it - if you have the physical, mental and psychological capability to serve and help others, then why not do it," said Schmidt. "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 [through blood donation]."

Donating blood is a safe process and typically takes 10 - 12 minutes or less, according to the Red Cross.

"We couldn't save lives without our donors," said Army Lt. Col. Jason Corley, 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 donor's support. They are the 'silent heroes.'"

Schriever Air Force Base regularly holds blood drives throughout the year. The next blood drive is scheduled for December.

"If people are willing to be a little brave or even just take the time, they can make such a big difference," said Schmidt.