Sheri Wentz, Blood Recipient

Sheri Wentz, a Concordia University Nebraska (CUNE) alumna, was just 31 years old when she became what she calls “an answered prayer.” She was 12 weeks pregnant, miserable with extreme morning sickness, and caring for her 10-month-old infant Alice. Sheri was so sick and weak she was unable to eat, so her doctor placed a feeding tube in her throat. She returned home, but instead of getting better, her health continued to decline.

On December 7, when blisters started appearing on her hands and feet and a fever developed, she went to the hospital immediately. Sheri had a staph infection caused by her feeding tube. By the 14th of December, her body was septic, and she was experiencing congestive heart failure. Sheri underwent emergency heart surgery. Doctors replaced a valve in her heart, and replaced her infected blood with donated blood. 

In the days that followed, Sheri developed pneumonia, her bowels quit working, and she started experiencing severe pain. Her body went into labor, but doctors were unable to save her unborn child. Sheri needed more donated blood, as well as platelets. As doctors operated, her vitals dropped and she crashed on the table.

“It’s incredible I’m even here to share my story,” Sheri said. “I didn’t realize how sick I was. I remember the doctor told me he used an internal defibrillator 12 times to resuscitate me because I was so young and he knew Alice was home waiting for me.”

The morning of December 24, Christmas Eve, Sheri, her husband Mark, and Alice finally made the trip home.

“It’s amazing to think about how many people in our community came together to see me through this, from the people who donated blood for someone they didn’t even know to the members of our church families in Lincoln and Sterling who rallied together to pray and take care of my family.”

GENERATIONS OF GENEROSITY

Sheri learned about blood donation from her mother, who for many years served as a laboratory technician at Syracuse Medical Center and regularly saw the need for blood. Her mother was an avid blood donor and often told Sheri when she made a donation.

“I knew it was something she did, but it never really clicked that I should be doing the same thing. I am so grateful there were people around who did. Because now, almost 20 years later, I have been so blessed.”

Due to medications she takes, Sheri is unable to donate blood, but that hasn’t stopped her from sharing her story, especially with her daughter Alice, who is now a 19 year old freshmen at CUNE. Alice was a student at Lincoln Lutheran when she made her first blood donation. Because of her mom’s experience, Alice knew from an early age that donating blood is important. After learning more about the process of blood donation at school, she was eager to donate as soon as she could. 

“Every year on December 14 we have a family day with Mark, Alice and I to celebrate Christmas together because we missed it that year,” Sheri said. “We set aside time to remember the baby we lost, and to be thankful we are still together because people were willing to give to others. We’re in a service profession as church workers, and teaching Alice about the importance of giving back has always been an integral part of our lives.” 

Alice has set a goal to donate 22 units of blood (or more) in her lifetime—the same amount her mother received. Her dedication to blood donation has also inspired Mark to start donating. Between the two of them, they’re well on their way to reaching that 22 gallon goal. 

“Alice has such a big heart; it’s awe inspiring,” Sheri said. “We raised her to be a caring individual and the fact that she wants to give back in that way makes me see that she’s adopted not only a pay-it-back philosophy, but she’s also paying it forward. We’re very proud of her.”

Mark and Sheri Wentz met at Concordia University Nebraska. Mark graduated in 1989 with a Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education with majors in theology and English and went on to teach at Lincoln Lutheran. He returned to CUNE in 2013 to obtain his master’s in education. Sheri graduated in 1992 with a Director of Christian Education degree and a Bachelor of Science in Sociology. She returned to CUNE in 1994 to obtain a teaching certificate and to work part time at St. John Lutheran Church in Seward as interim Minister of Christian Nurture. It was the summer of 1994 when the couple met at chapel through mutual friends. Sheri and Mark will celebrate 23 years of marriage this year.