Al Kirby had his own Christmas miracle last year and now he’s giving back.

On Christmas day in 2018, the Shirley resident was rushed to Stony Brook University Hospital to repair what ended up being a catastrophic rupture of his main aortic vessel. After 10 hours of surgery and 27 units of blood products, Kirby survived.

“The inner layer of Al’s ascending aorta — the part of the aorta that exits the heart — had ruptured, and the tear extended from his heart all the way down to his right leg, a distance of about forty inches, letting blood in where it usually doesn’t go,” said Dr. Henry Tannous, co-director of the Stony Brook University Heart Institute and chief of the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery. “This caused the inner and middle layers to separate, or dissect. If and when the blood bursts through the weakened outer wall of the aorta, it’s life-threatening and needs immediate repair.”

And luckily, the hospital had enough blood to give the Marine veteran, ultimately saving his life. Now in the spirit of giving, Kirby and his family returned to Stony Brook to announce a blood drive to help save others just like he was saved last year.

On Dec. 23, Kirby joined the hospital staff and his family to unveil their plans for the Al Kirby Giveback Holiday Blood Drive.

“I cannot put into words the quality of care I received in the Cardiothoracic Intensive Care Unit,” Kirby said. “Dr. Tannous, his team and the entire Stony Brook staff were, for me, nothing less than angels sent down from heaven.”

Now that the Marine is able to enjoy a full, active life with his family again, he and his wife, Dawn, knew that they wanted to give back to the place that saved his life and host a blood drive in his name.

“I thank all of you for donating blood, allowing someone like me or anyone else who has received it, to be here speaking to you today,” he said at a press conference during his blood drive.

Their family and friends will commit to donating blood under his name and the Stony Brook Medicine medical team will aim to match the donation with its own blood drive. Just one blood donation has the opportunity to potentially save up to three lives. 

“It’s an honor to be here on behalf of Stony Brook Medicine and participate in this happy reunion,” said Dr. Tannous. “Today is a good reminder on how we can all join together in turning a catastrophic event into a remarkable get together with a lot of potential to save numerous lives.”

Marine Al Kirby of Shirley

Top: Shirley’s Al Kirby thanking Dr. Tannous at a press conference at Stony Brook University Hospital (credit: Stony Brook Medicine).