Mom encourages blood donations after lifesaving donation saved her and daughter

SAN ANTONIO – Mother’s Day is full of beloved traditions and the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center is hoping to add donating blood to that list.

“Every Mother’s Day she’ll text me ‘hey, love you mom from your burrito brain,’ and we have no idea where that came from,” Yvonne Ortega, the mobile operations manager for the STBTC, said.

It’s Ortega’s favorite Mother’s Day memory with her oldest daughter Justice Castillo. Although, the two remember it a little differently.

“We’ve given me multiple nicknames throughout the years, but the one that really stuck was Burrito Brain, because she’s always said, like, ‘you don’t think before you do these, you just do them,’” Castillo said.

Regardless of its origin, these two are close.

“She’s hardworking, and will just do whatever she can to help whoever needs help. Like, she cares about others probably more than she cares about herself,” Castillo said about her mom.

Ortega had Castillo when she was a teenager. Castillo was delivered at just 23 weeks by C-section.

“They told me, like, ‘you lost a lot of blood and you’re still losing blood. You’re going to need some blood,’” Ortega said.

After platelets and blood transfusions, Ortega was on the mend. Castillo was still in trouble, though.

Born at only two pounds, Castillo kept losing weight.

“They were giving her the blood transfusions. But it was just like a little syringe, like tiny, tiny drops of blood. But instantly, you saw what the blood was doing for her,” Ortega said.

Now Castillo is 27 years old, living in Houston and thriving, but that’s not where Ortega’s blood journey ended.

“I went to school for a medical assistant and the first job interview that they gave me was at the blood center,” she said.

Ortega has been working as a phlebotomist for over 20 years, now on the managerial side of things with the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center’s mobile unit.

She shares her story to encourage people to donate so that other moms and their babies can get help just like she did with Justice.

“There’s lots of mothers that still, you know, they hemorrhage a lot, whether it’s a C-section or a natural birth, you know, it is used. And, you know, people just don’t think about it,” Ortega said.

“I’ve needed blood. My mom has needed blood. My grandfathers needed blood,” Castillo said. “Everybody needs blood at some point in their life.”

Obstetric hemorrhage is the leading cause of pregnancy-related death here in Texas, according to the Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Review Committee report.

That’s why it’s so important to have blood on hand for any kind of emergency while moms are giving birth.

If you would like to sign up to be a donor or schedule to donate blood, click here.

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