Neil Gene Lilly is a blood drive coordinator for the Masonic districts 2, 3, 4, 5 and 7 in Northern Virginia where he has been coordinating drives for over 10 years. Dedicated to his mission of recruiting blood donors young and old, Neil hopes his work will help make a positive impact on the blood supply.
Being a recipient of blood products, he fully understands the importance of having a readily available, reliable blood supply. After a long outing back in 1985, Neil began riding his horse back to the barn. While turning the horse around, he accidentally backed into an electrical fence that immediately jolted and grounded the 900 pound animal.
The situation became worse as the horse began to convulse from the recurrent shock of the fence that was now wrapped around his cannon and hooves. With his leg tangled in the stirrup, pinned beneath his horse, Neil was being violently crushed to death. “Once the horse got off me, I stood up and took about ten steps to the back of my pickup truck, but I couldn’t breathe and had to lie down on the ground,” said Neil. “I told my wife ‘I think I’m going to be ok,’ but she was worried.”
Fortunately his wife had already sent their 12-year-old son to call for help. As Neil fought to breathe, he began slipping in and out of consciousness. The weight of the horse had crushed Neil’s sternum and his ribs had penetrated his liver and protruded through his back. Consequently, he was bleeding to death. As the paramedics rushed to save him, they transfused Neil immediately with lifesaving blood. On an emergency helicopter ride to UVA Hospital, Neil began to feel the full agony of his injuries. “The pain was so unbearable, I just wanted them to land the helicopter down and let me go in peace,” said Neil.
When he arrived at the hospital, the doctors hurried him to the operating room as his blood pressure fell to dangerous levels. Surgeons worked carefully on Neil, who in total required more than 200 units of blood to save his life. Once he was stabilized, Neil was moved to the ICU were he remained in a coma for 14 days. The massive trauma from the injuries had severed Neil’s vena cava, one of two main veins in the body that brings deoxygenated blood from the body to the heart. “The doctor had no idea how I survived and said to me ‘Neil, imagine turning on a garden hose and letting the water run, that’s what was happening to you,’ and I realized how much blood I had lost,” said Neil.
After Neil’s condition stabilized he was faced with another challenge. The accident had damaged his spine, muscles and the fragile nerves that run down his back. As a result the doctors told him that he would never walk again. Neil saw this as a challenge, especially after having beaten the odds before. Miraculously after only two weeks of self-therapy, he took his first steps since the accident.
Neil believes that donating blood is the easiest way to help another person. He thinks that when a person donates blood they are giving a piece of themselves for the betterment of another. During all of his blood drives, he makes it a point to thank all the donors. He knows that what they have done makes a difference in the community. “If you want to be a hero, donate a pint of blood,” said Neil. “Real heroes are not appreciated enough, those who have it in their heart, which is why I make it a point to thank every single donor I meet. You never know who is going to need blood. I never thought that I would, but it might be you or a family member and they could need it as soon as tomorrow.”