ASBP: The Race to Find a Match
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The Race to Find a Match

By Jeffery Diffy, ASBP blood donor recruiter, North Chicago, Ill.
Seaman Recruit Rina Cabrera Atocha needed blood donations to survive after her premature birth in Peru and her family was tasked to find their own donors. Today she donates for the Armed Services Blood Program in order to save lives.
Seaman Recruit Rina Cabrera Atocha needed blood donations to survive after her premature birth in Peru and her family was tasked to find their own donors. Today she donates for the Armed Services Blood Program in order to save lives.
Navy Recruit Rina Cabrera Atocha was born in Lima, Peru in 1993. Born prematurely, Atocha would need blood in order for a chance to survive and develop. Now, 25 years later, Atocha is alive to share her story because of the blood donors that saved her life. Recently, she donated blood to the Armed Services Blood Program, knowing how much just one donation can help those in need.

Carmen Atocha, Rina Atocha’s mother, gave birth to her daughter when she was only 25 weeks pregnant. Along with a premature infant in a fragile state of health, Rina Atocha’s family faced an additional obstacle. According to the policy in Peru in place at that time, patients were responsible to find their own blood donors. With the clock working against them and their baby in an incubator, the race to find a blood donor was on.

The Atocha family was distraught; they’d need to find a donor with the same blood type in order to save her life. As luck would have it, the area where Rina Atocha was born is an area where tourists frequent. With her mother pleading for help, a race car driver from Italy quickly assisted with a compatible blood donation. The donation was successful and all was well for that moment.

Rina Atocha continued to grow, but she was exceptionally tiny.

“I could fit in the palm of my mother’s hand. I was so small, newborn clothes didn’t fit. I had to be dressed with clothes from a doll,” she said.

As time went on, Rina Atocha needed additional blood transfusions. Carmen Atocha did what she could to recruit help for her daughter, including crying on the streets as she pled for strangers to help. Though a few people offered to help, their blood type proved incompatible.

Eventually, her grandmother, Eisa Cabrera, was able to travel to Lima to donate blood to her granddaughter. The blood donated was a match and Atocha was able to survive this difficult start to life.

“I will be a quartermaster in the U.S. Navy. My grandmother tells me every birthday that she saved my life with a blood donation,” said Rina Atocha. “I am so thankful to those that were there to help me when I was first born.”

She will attend “A” school training in Great Lakes after her initial training in boot camp. She donated blood while in boot camp and said she will continue to do so.

Atocha’s donations to the ASBP stand in stark contrast to those she received 25 years ago in Peru. While her native country required the patients to find willing parties to provide blood donations in their moment of need, the ASBP collects, processes, stores and delivers blood to members of the military health community through volunteer blood donors. The ASBP and these donors do the work to connect patients with the blood products they need so that patients and families do not carry the added burden that the Atocha family endured.

Donors in the U.S. and around the world are an indispensable part of the medical health care system and are integral to saving lives. Become a donor with the ASBP and save lives both big and small.

About the Armed Services Blood Program
Since 1962, the Armed Services Blood Program has served as the sole provider of blood for the United States military. As a tri-service organization, the ASBP collects, processes, stores and distributes blood and blood products to Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and their families worldwide. As one of four national blood collection organizations trusted to ensure the nation has a safe, potent blood supply, the ASBP works closely with our civilian counterparts by sharing donors on military installations where there are no military blood collection centers and by sharing blood products in times of need to maximize availability of this national treasure. To find out more about the ASBP or to schedule an appointment to donate, please visit To interact directly with ASBP staff members, see more photos or get the latest news, follow @militaryblood on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and Pinterest. Find the drop. Donate.

The Armed Services Blood Program is a proud recipient of the Army Maj. Gen. Keith L. Ware Public Affairs award for journalism.