B.C. mom rallies her family and community to donate in memory of her daughter

Hayleigh O’Brien sitting in a car

Hayleigh O’Brien

Holly Connell started donating blood as soon as she was old enough back in 1979. However, with the birth of her first child, Hayleigh, she took time away from donating. Holly thought she couldn’t donate anymore due of a shot of RhoGAM she received while pregnant.  

Many years later in 2015, Holly was driving her daughter Hayleigh to her first blood donation appointment. Hayleigh encouraged her mom to get back to helping save lives. Holly committed to joining her daughter in her first blood donation experience.  

Donating blood has been important to these women over the years. Recently, the value of blood donations hit close to home for Holly and her family. In December 2015, her daughter, Stephanie, gave birth prematurely at 28 weeks. Due to complications, her newborn son, Quinn, experienced cardiac issues and needed several blood transfusions. Then, almost a year later in 2016, Hayleigh was diagnosed with a rare form of ovarian cancer.  

Hayleigh received many blood transfusions as part of her treatment. Sadly, she lost her fight with cancer and passed away in 2017. Hayleigh captured her journey through a blog and wrote a book called, “The Girl Next Door Meets Cancer.”  

Each time Hayleigh received a transfusion her family noticed an increase in her energy that gave them quality time together. 

Hayleigh’s cancer experience inspired her loved ones to become blood donors and to make sure blood products are available to anyone in need. Blood donation has been a way to carry on Hayleigh’s legacy and passion for donating. This was followed by Hayleigh’s dad requiring blood transfusions for what was later found to be stomach cancer.  

Holly along with her niece, Kelsey, created a Partners for Life group in dedication of her daughter Hayleigh O’Brien- In Memory of Hayleigh. Holly and her loved ones make about 60 donations each year. They enjoy receiving text message confirmations that their blood donation is “on it’s way to saving a life.”  

As an advocate for blood donations, Holly encourages others to use their power to give life.  She relishes how it feels knowing people in need of blood products will be okay because someone is donating blood and making a difference to help families like hers. 

Hayleigh was an inspiration to many people. Donating blood helps to keep Hayleigh’s memory alive and inspire others to support patients in need.