Global Blood Fund volunteer Martin Gomez

Why This Global Blood Fund Volunteer Cares So Much

Following the loss of his mother in 2003, Martin Gomez became determined to turn his grief into something positive. As a dedicated Global Blood Fund volunteer, he’s done that and so much more. We recently spoke with Martin Gomez about the amazing, life-saving impact he has made and the legacy that drives him. The conversation below has been edited for clarity.

Hi Martin, thanks so much for sitting down and talking with me. You have such a powerful story, so let’s go ahead and dive in. How long have you volunteered with Global Blood Fund?

Martin: Oh, I would need to go back and check. But I’d say at least a good 10 years.

That’s amazing, Martin. Why is volunteering with us so important to you?

Martin: I realized when I started working for Vitalant, I realized very quickly that there was plenty of equipment that blood banks, here in El Paso, that we were replacing. The first thing I saw were these two little buses that were in the back – they were actually abandoned. They wanted to just throw them away. And so that was my first donation.

MORE: Global Blood Fund Helps Sends Bus to Mexico

So who ended up receiving them?

Martin: The Chihuahua State Blood Transfusion Center, a hospital about four hours from El Paso.

And what was your connection to the hospital in Chihuahua?

Martin: There was a situation with my mother. She was visiting me and my one-year-old son for a Fourth of July celebration in 2003. She started feeling sick and started bleeding a little bit. I had no idea what was happening, so my first instinct was to drive her back to Mexico where she had access to a public hospital. It turned out that she had a small bleed in her esophagus that was very difficult to find. She kept bleeding for two weeks.

Wow, how terrible. And were they able to help her?

Martin: Unfortunately no, they couldn’t stop the bleeding. In Mexico, it’s a family that has to bring the donors as opposed to a voluntary donation system in the United States. But I didn’t know that. Her blood type was also O-negative, which is so difficult to find everywhere – but more so in Mexico. So we said, “You know what, they can’t stop the bleeding. Let’s bring our mother to the U.S. for treatment.” I went to the American Red Cross and asked if they could transport my mother to the border. They agreed. As I got closer to the border, I called 911.

And she was able to get care in El Paso?

Martin: Yes. She was rushed to the hospital, where they finally stopped the bleeding that night. We had an amazing doctor but she was very compromised. She couldn’t recover.

I’m very sorry for your loss, Martin.

Martin: Thank you. Losing my mother was the worst thing that has happened to me, so I’m turning it into something positive. Every time I donate equipment, I’m honoring my mother.

That’s truly inspiring. So can I ask then: the hospital you ended up donating those buses to, that was the hospital your mother was initially taken?

Martin: Yes, I wanted to give back to them and make them strong. I asked myself, “How can I help this blood bank so that what happened to me doesn’t happen to another person?” So when I started working for Vitalant, the first thing I did was give them those two little buses. That was the kickoff.

Again, what an amazing thing to do. I’m sure everyone at the hospital was very appreciative.

Martin: They were. Actually, they invited me to present the buses to the community in Mexico and asked me to invite my family because they had a little surprise.

A surprise?

Martin: Yes, the buses were parked outside of city hall and they had invited the media and the mayor. They’d included an inscription on the back of the buses to honor my mother: “In memory of Sra. Martha Cervantes de Gomez.” My family was very touched by that. We even say that my mother’s memory travels through the roads of Mexico collecting blood, blood that she could not find for herself.

Martha Cervantes de Gomez, Martin's mother
Blood donation bus with name of Martin's mother

And that inscription actually has a tie back to you and your work with Global Blood Fund.

Martin: Exactly. Since volunteering with Global Blood Fund, I’ve made including her name on donated buses a bit of a tradition. Each time I help donate one, I only ask for one thing: my mother’s name on the back of the bus.

And how many buses have you helped donate with us at Global Blood Fund? What a tribute to her, Martin! And what an impact!

Martin: Ten in total. And thank you, it really is incredible. A bus like that is never seen like that down there. They’re the talk of the day – they show up to a school and everybody wants to get on the bus and donate. In these cities, the word blood drive is no longer an unheard word. It’s amazing. I’m very thankful that Global Blood Fund has allowed me to take my mission to another level. I’m very thankful for that.

Well, we’re thankful for you. Last question: If you were to have a message for our donors, what would you want to say about the work made possible with their support?

Martin: Well, I definitely want to thank them! But I also want to give them perspective on the situation in Mexico. Bloodmobiles, how many do we have here in the U.S.? A ton. Mobile beds? We have them. Some of the centers in Mexico don’t even have enough gloves. So the idea is to help them have a safe and adequate blood supply. We must continue talking about voluntary blood donation in Mexico and Central America.

call to action image

Together We Can Make a World of Difference. It Starts Today.

Support Global Blood Fund