What do an Atlanta headhunter, a retired teacher and a nanny have in common?
Anonymously, they all helped save the life of supermodel Niki Taylor.
Taylor was in the American Red Cross office in Atlanta Wednesday during a rare event that allowed a recipient to meet the people whose blood donations helped keep her alive after a horrific one-car accident in April 2001. Such donations are usually kept confidential.
“Thank you so much” said an emotional Taylor, who hugged each of the 13 donors. “I thought about you and I prayed for you.”
In all, it was more than blood and related products from over 300 donors that went to Taylor, according to Red Cross officials.
“To be able to give blood to people who truly need it is a blessing,” said donor Debra Curl of Atlanta, who runs a recruitment firm. “The life is in the blood.”
Taylor, whose image has been on hundreds of magazine covers around the world, was a passenger in a friend’s car when it struck a utility pole. Taylor, who was wearing a seat belt, said her knees hit the dashboard but she didn’t appear to be hurt initially.
Then suddenly, she began to experience excruciating abdominal pain. Among her injuries was severe liver damage. She nearly died. In all, she underwent more than 40 surgeries.
“I wouldn’t be be here if it weren’t for your simple act of kindness, to roll up a sleeve and ultimately give me and others like me another chance at life,” said Taylor, who has been an active supporter of the Red Cross.
Many of those gathered Wednesday have been donors for years, one for nearly six decades. Taylor said she also wanted to encourage people who have never given blood to consider doing so.
The importance of blood donation was underscored by another person at the event.
Meredith W. Forrester, chairwoman of the American Red Cross Southern Blood Services Region board, was severely injured in a 1999 shooting at an Atlanta day trading office. Forrester, who was shot in her lower back with a hollow-point bullet, said she needed 115 pints of blood and underwent multiple surgeries.
“There’s no way I would be here today (without donations),” she said.
Unintentionally, the Red Cross sprinkled a few clues — such as ” national celebrity,” “accident in 2001” and “she” — in a invitational letter to donors that sent some straight to the Internet in efforts to identity the recipient, which was a closely guarded secret.
“It was really cool,” said Rachel Holt of Cumming, who determined that she was a high school student when she donated the blood used for Taylor. “When we donate, we really don’t think about where it’s going or the fact that it’s helping save someone’s life. Today, we found out it really does mean something.”