Car wreck survivor is living proof of need for blood donors

January is National Blood Donor Month. While you often hear of the need for blood, a Topeka man is living proof of the difference it makes.
Published: Jan. 12, 2023 at 10:12 PM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Jacob Smith is alive today thanks largely to 26 people he never met.

“I was brought back to life,” the 24-year-old recalls.

It was March 30, 2021. One second, Jacob was in the car with his mom, sister and eight-month-old nephew. The next, he saw a bumper.

“I remember looking over at my mom and telling her, ‘Brace for impact,’” he said.

A Cadillac Escalade was speeding the wrong way down SW Polk at 5th St. It slammed into Jacob’s family’s vehicle at upward of 80 miles per hour, crumpling it and pushing it onto its side.

“I was folded like a pancake up underneath the airbag,” Jacob said.

Jacob’s mom and sister were hurt, and his nephew, sadly, did not survive. At Stormont Vail’s ER, Jacob at first thought he was okay.

“I told them I was fine, I was going home and they were like, ‘Well we can’t do nothing (to stop you). Go ahead, stand up, and walk out,’ so I stood and everything popped,” he said.

Jacob collapsed, and his heart stopped.

“The bones that makes your pelvis, it was all fractured. It was like a puzzle piece that wasn’t put together,” he said.

The trauma team jumped into action to get his heart beating and put him back together.

“Jacob ended up needing blood from 26 different donors to save his life,” said Teresa Taylor, RN, Stormont Vail’s Trauma Services Program Manager.

Taylor says in a major incident like Jacob’s, having a blood supply ready to go is vital. She says you can’t wait to track down donors.

“There is no time,” she said. “If there’s not blood to pump through the body to deliver the oxygen and the nutrients to those organs, there’s not a chance to recover. We have nothing to fix.”

It’s not just trauma patients who need blood.

“Mammas having babies can sometimes run into emergencies and need blood transfusions; some of our cancer patients often times are regular blood transfusion recipients, neonatal intensive care, so those little, tiny babies - all kinds of medical patients need blood transfusions,” she said.

Taylor says she’s often struck by the fact blood donated locally stays local, helping people in their own community.

“Just knowing that people gave that of themselves, not ever knowing where it was going to go - and that made the difference for someone between life and death. It really is amazing,” Taylor said.

Jacob spent a month and a half in a medically-induced coma, another month in the hospital, and another three and a half months in a rehabilitation facility.

“I have a thousand pins holding my hip together, four screws, two bolts and a plate on my ribs,” he said.

While he’s grateful to all the medical staff who have him back on his feet, he’s most thankful for those 26 people who rolled up their sleeves and gave him the gift of life.

“It means a lot,” he said. “I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for them.”

Blood supplies are low this time of year, with weather, illness and the holidays keeping regular donors away. The supply always needs to be replenished because blood needs to stay fresh, but also because it is used every day.

Topeka’s Community Blood Center located on SW 29th just west of Wanamaker has daily donation hours. Visit to see their hours or set an appointment. They and the Red Cross hold regular blood drives. Find a Red Cross blood drive by visiting their page.

By the way, the driver who hit Jacob and his family had his trial postponed to this summer.

Community Blood Center

Find a Red Cross blood drive