RANGELY I Each year has something to teach Ian and Kathy Kottenstette.
This year, the fifth anniversary of their infant daughter Makayla Jane’s passing, the lesson has felt especially hard. March 23 would have been a special birthday; a time to celebrate the approach of summer, school in the fall and the unfurling of a small life just beginning to bloom.
Instead, the Kottenstettes remember who Makayla was for the four days they had her, before complications from volvulus, a twisting of the intestine, took her from them.
They continue their healing process via an annual blood drive in her name, one that has garnered more than 9 gallons of blood donated by 157 donors in the five years it has existed.
On Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., donors and supporters will gather again at the Colorado Northwestern Community College Weiss Center parking lot to add to that number.
For the Kottenstettes, the difficulty of this anniversary is balanced by the importance of donation to those who benefit from blood transfusions. It’s also a way to pay forward the precious time Kathy and Ian had with Makayla, thanks in part to a blood transfusion she received.
“Blood is something that a lot of people get that isn’t really talked about,” Kathy Kottenstette said. “People get transfusions for so many reasons … To have a little bit of a hand in helping touch or save someone else’s life, or to help someone else be here longer because someone was selfless enough to give … that’s what this is about.”
As the Kottenstettes relearn the lesson of losing Makayla each year, they learn afresh the beauty that a community of support has to offer. From loved ones braving donations despite their fear of needles to old friends showing up unexpectedly to give blood, the couple continues to be touched by Rangely’s care of its own.
They’re also surprised at how the drive has opened up opportunities for others to share their stories.
“Some people donate because they have friends or family or someone they know who have also lost a child,” Kathy Kottenstette said. “Sometimes they give to remember a child. Now people are willing to share and open that piece of themselves.”
It’s also a powerful reminder that care and empathy for others can bloom from loss.
“As people have come out of the woodwork and shared these stories, it’s made me have a different compassion for people,” she said. “You never know someone else’s story.”
Donors at Friday’s Makayla Jane Kottenstette Memorial Blood Drive can come during open hours or reserve a time by calling 970-261-4626. Those who can’t attend and want to give blood in Makayla’s name can contact the St. Mary’s Regional Blood Bank in Grand Junction at 970-298-2555 or, on the Front Range, request a donation in her name at any Bonfils Blood Center.
To determine whether you are eligible to donate blood at this time, visit www.bonfils.org and click on the “Am I eligible to donate?” button for a list of guidelines.