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'He held on for me': A North Texas woman pays it forward - and honors her dad - with a blood drive

Nearly 30 people, many who knew her dad, donated.

PLANO, Texas — Kasia Birdwell, of Plano, waited most of her life to become a nurse – and her dad waited all of his.

“It just shows me how much it meant to him and how much it meant to me,” Birdwell said. “He held on for me.”

Birdwell’s dad, Allen Free, is the reason she became a nurse.

He worked in radio and as part of his job, he often visited sick kids. Sometimes Birdwell tagged along, which is where she got the idea to become a nurse.

But a couple months ago, just weeks before graduating from nursing school, her dad suffered a massive heart attack.

“Right after I graduated, I sat down in the bed next to him and showed him the video of me graduating, 'cause he was not able to be there, and exactly one hour later, he took his last breath,” Birdwell said.

It’s a moment Birdwell says almost never happened. Her dad lost a lot of blood and likely would’ve died within days. But thanks, in part, to blood donors, he lived four more weeks, just long enough to see her graduate.

“This is the least that we can do in his honor, is to give back to so many,” Birdwell said.

To return the favor and to say thank you, last week, together with the American Red Cross, Birdwell held a blood drive at Chase Oaks Church in Plano in her dad’s honor.

Nearly 30 people, many who knew her dad, donated.

“It touches your heart to know that somebody sat in a chair and donated,” said Linda Thomas, a blood donor and Allen’s girlfriend.

“You can’t put a price on 30 minutes for a donation, so yeah, it’s huge,” said donor Britni Cady.

“You always see, ‘give blood, saves lives,’ but you actually are saving someone’s life,” said donor Stephanie Stanesic.

Giving blood is such an unsung gift. A donor will never know whether they’re giving someone a few more years or just a few more weeks.

Birdwell says, however, every second with her dad was a reminder that helping someone else is always worth it.

“If we were hosting a drive for anyone else, he’d be the first one here donating,” Birdwell said. “He was such a giver, he was such a kind soul. He brought so much joy to everybody.”

That’s what led her to be a nurse. Because doing good was never her calling, it was always in her blood.

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