Men's Basketball

My Blood Drive

N Our Voice

By Sam Griesel

That fateful night in November of 2021 changed a lot.

Most notably, my perspective on life.

As a perfectly healthy 21-year-old back then, it's fair to say that I used to take my health for granted.

Like most student-athletes at this age, I felt invincible. 

But that all changed when a stomach ulcer almost made me lose my life.

If it wasn't for my teammate, Willie Guy, who was rooming with me on this particular road trip, I probably would have lost my life that day. 

I ended up losing half my blood. 

While the doctors still aren't certain how this ulcer happened, I actually remain grateful for the entire experience.

Without a doubt, I have a greater appreciation for how important it is to give back and help those in need.

If I didn't receive the help I needed that night from so many different people, I'm not certain what would've happened, but I know the circumstances would've been dire.

Now, I want to use my platform as a basketball player for the Huskers in the Big Ten to promote the importance of giving blood and saving lives.

Not feeling myself


I felt off, and I couldn't explain why.

I've always prided myself on being a well-conditioned athlete, but in the second game of the 21-22 season against Concordia-Moorehead — when I was still playing for North Dakota State — I was sluggish.

I couldn't catch my breath, no matter how hard I tried.

I didn't play in the second half, and I looked forward to being checked out after the game to see what was going on with me.

The next day, I went in and completed several different tests and passed each one with flying colors.

Maybe it was just an off day for me?

We had our first road game against Cal Poly a few days later, and I was cleared to get back on the court and compete with the rest of my teammates. 

I never could have predicted what would happen on that road trip.

Worst night of my life


The night before the game, I again had that uncomfortable feeling where something felt off. I was tossing and turning all night, trying to sleep.

I finally got up to go to the bathroom, but I didn't end up making it. 

Instead, I collapsed on the floor and threw up what seemed like endless amounts of blood.

My roommate, Willie, made sure I received the medical attention I desperately needed. I was so far gone at the time, I probably wasn't fully aware of what was happening to me, but I know it wasn't a pretty sight.

When I got to the hospital, after being hooked up to an IV and getting some fluids in me, I became a little more alert. 

My hemoglobin levels dropped as low as 7.1, which is terrifying to think about because I'm supposed to be around the 15 and 16 range.

I lost so much blood in such a short amount of time.

Fortunately, as serious and life-threatening as this situation was, I was able to get a blood transfusion to get my hemoglobin levels back up where they needed to be.

Since I was young and otherwise healthy, the doctors let me know I'd have a quick recovery, which was all I needed to try and convince anyone that would hear me to let me play in the game against Cal Poly.

Let's just say while my recovery was wildly successful, my efforts to play in that game failed miserably.

A powerful responsibility


I don't believe it's possible to go through something like this without changing your outlook on life. 

It completely altered how I see the world.

There are so many aspects of everyday life that I'm thankful for and didn't think twice about before my ulcer.

One of those happens to be blood drives.

Truthfully, I never had a great knowledge or deep understanding of blood drives until recently. 

I think that's fairly common because unless something impacts you or your loved ones directly, it tends to go unnoticed.

It's been a little over a year now since the ulcer and blood transfusion. I can promise you that I have a vast appreciation for blood drives and the limited supply of blood that's available to help those in need.

My blood transfusion helped save my life and recover almost instantly. 

Because of that, I sense a responsibility to use my platform as a student-athlete to create awareness and share how critical it is to give blood to those in emergency situations like I found myself in.

Fulfilling my purpose


It brings me an incredible amount of joy to say I'll be hosting my own blood drive here in Lincoln this week on February 17th at the West Stadium Club.

This is one of the many ways I plan to pay it forward and give back to blood donation, which I'll hold close to my heart for the rest of my life.

I want everyone to see how easy the process is and the impact it can have on saving someone else's life.

As I said before, prior to that night in California, I was as guilty as anyone of not recognizing how essential blood drives and giving blood are.

So, hosting my own blood drive is an opportunity for me to continue to share my story and do everything in my power to give blood drives the attention they deserve and require.

I've always loved servant leadership and consider it to be my purpose in life. I emphatically believe God put me through this experience to be a stronger and more grateful person, and to impact as many lives as I can.

I love basketball as much as anyone, but if I can contribute in any way to people living healthy, joyous, and productive lives, that's what fulfills me more than anything. 

And it's what I'll continue to do as I share my story to spread awareness, host blood drives, and put smiles on people's faces.

I'll take those assists over any I dish out on the basketball court.