NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- A mother of two with sickle cell disease met several blood donors who helped save her life.
The New York Blood Center held the reunion on Valentine's Day.
Stacey Sottile is a lifelong New Yorker who was born and raised in Queens.
Like approximately 10,000 New Yorkers, Stacey lives with sickle cell disease, an inherited red cell disorder that is most common among African Americans.
She is transfused every six weeks. The 51-year-old has even written a book about her journey, but she couldn't have scripted an event like Tuesday's meeting.
"It's just overwhelming just to receive blood all of these years, I never imagined meeting a donor," she said.
And the donors never imagined meeting a person they have helped.
"Hearing Stacey's story was really heartwarming, it's continuous motivation," said blood donor Jason Li.
Neil Steiner has donated 99 times, but the event on Tuesday was a first.
"It really puts in perspective, all the good everyone is doing, I'm just one little part and I'm glad to be a part of something so huge and something like this really gets the message out, it's really important," Steiner said.
She was diagnosed with sickle cell disease at 11 months old and has dedicated her life to spreading awareness about the impacts of this devastating disease, as well as the need for blood donors.
Sickle cell disease patients rely on blood transfusions to stay healthy, often needing them every few weeks and requiring very closely matched blood products because their bodies make antibodies directed towards transfused red blood cells. These blood products can often only be found in donors with the same racial or ethnic heritage, making donations from people of color particularly important.
Sottile reunited with several of her donors who range in age from 31 years old to 71 years old. They live throughout the New York region. Interestingly, some of Sottile's donors have donated blood just a few times while others are lifelong donors.
New York Blood Center is an international leader in sickle cell disease research, focusing on preventing and treating complications, including pain episodes and tissue injury, and developing novel strategies to help cure the disease through stem cell transplantation and gene therapy.