Strangers saved his life. A blood drive gives back.

“When you donate blood, you never know who you are going to help,” said Dennis Borland, a blood donor and recipient. “It could be your best friend, or it could be you.”
Nov. 17, 2021
Dennis Borland, a hockey player, encourages people to become blood donors.
Dennis Borland is a passionate hockey player that’s back on the ice after a motorcycle accident thanks to blood donors and his health care team at UCHealth. Photo by Joel Blocker, for UCHealth.

Dennis Borland, 54, will proudly show you the video of his first time back on the ice, nine months after a motorcycle accident took his lower left leg. He takes a few shuffles onto the rink and down he goes. But he gets up — over and over — because not skating again has never been an option.

Borland’s hockey friends from the Fort Collins Pond Hockey League have teamed up with Odell Brewing Company to host a mobile blood drive on Dec. 11, 2021, in honor of Borland. The drive is 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Odell Brewing Company, 800 E. Lincoln Ave., Fort Collins, Colorado. All blood donations stay local to help those at northern Colorado hospitals and all donors get a goodie basket from the hosts. Click here to sign up for the drive, or if you can’t make it, consider becoming a donor on your own time at the UCHealth Garth Englund Blood Donation Centers in Fort Collins or Loveland by filling out this form for more information.

Borland’s story is one of determination and grit. But as he tells it, it’s a story about how a perfect stranger saved his life. Borland has a tremendous appreciation for his medical care team but if it weren’t for the quick action of a stranger who knew how to put on a tourniquet and the philanthropy of blood donors, he may not have lived.  And he wouldn’t be on the ice, working hard to get up again.

The day he needed help from so many strangers

Borland didn’t get into hockey until he was almost 30, but it’s been his passion ever since. He started inline skating then joined the Fort Collins Pond Hockey League. The members are his second family. Before the accident, Borland hit the ice several times a week to skate, or drop in on other teams to see if they needed a goalie.

His wife, Jennifer, made him a deal: He could play as much as he wanted as long as he only participated in one league that cost money.

hockey player Dennis Borland in goalie pads on the ice.
Pond hockey player Dennis Borland has a tremendous appreciation for his medical care team but if it weren’t for the quick action of a stranger who knew how to put on a tourniquet and the philanthropy of blood donors, he may not have lived to get back on the ice. Photo by Joel Blocker, for UCHealth.

Borland doesn’t remember much about hockey practice the morning of July 20, 2019, but after a scramble on the ice with others in his league, Borland put on his motorcycle leathers and helmet, got on his 2017 Heritage Softail, and started heading the 20-plus miles to his Johnstown, Colorado home to get Jennifer. It was a beautiful summer day and the couple planned to ride out to Trail Ridge Road through Rocky Mountain National Park.

Uncontrolled bleeding is the number one cause of preventable death from trauma. Learn more about Stop the Bleed training that can help you save a life.

Borland was on Highway 60 near Interstate 25 when a vehicle struck his motorcycle on the left side. The impact crushed his hip, shattered his femur and tossed him 70 feet from his motorcycle. The first thing he remembers hearing is a stranger telling him he was going to put a tourniquet on his leg.

“I know what color pain is — it’s white. All I could see was white,” Borland said, as he recalled the accident more than two years later. “I remember thinking: I need to wake up.”

When police arrived, they replaced the stranger’s tourniquet with their own. Borland heard the officers tell him how the stranger’s actions had prevented fatal blood loss.

Borland was transported to UCHealth Medical Center of the Rockies, and just as he relied on the kindness of that stranger to stop his bleeding, he was reliant at the hospital on the kindness of blood donors to replenish what he’d lost.

Dennis getting his hockey gear on.
Goalie Dennis Borland gets his hockey skate onto his prosthetic leg before going out on the ice to practice. He lost his leg in a motorcycle crash almost two years ago but hasn’t let it get in the way of his passion as a hockey player. Photo by Joel Blocker, for UCHealth.

Trauma patients and blood donors

Over the next two days, Borland received about seven units of blood (the body holds about 10.5 units) during an hours-long surgery in which doctors set his hip and amputated his left leg below the knee.

Blood products needed for trauma patients, surgical patients and those with blood disorders or chronic illnesses such as cancer in northern Colorado come from donors through UCHealth Garth Englund Blood Donation Center.

Blood donated through UCHealth Garth Englund Blood Donation Centers helps patients at UCHealth Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland, UCHealth Greeley HospitalUCHealth Longs Peak Hospital in Longmont, and Estes Park Health.

“When you donate blood, you never know who you are going to help,” Borland said. “It could be your best friend, or it could be you.”

Dennis Borland practices with other hockey players at his local rink. Photo by Joel Blocker, for UCHealth. Photo by Joel Blocker, for UCHealth.
Dennis Borland practices with other hockey players at his local rink. Photo by Joel Blocker, for UCHealth.

Getting back on the ice with a prosthetic

Borland spent six days in the ICU and a total of 10 days at the hospital before he moved to an inpatient rehabilitation center. Within a week, he was ready to go home. Then, he received in-home rehabilitation care two to three times a week.

“I was determined to be back playing hockey by Christmas,” Borland said. “Little did I know I wouldn’t even walk again until Thanksgiving.”

He learned how to navigate in a wheelchair and on Tuesday before Thanksgiving, he got his first prosthetic leg.

“It took time for me to work on my balance,” he said. “It’s quite the learning curve. I had never used these things (walker and cane) before.”

After the holidays, resolute in his desire to return to the ice, Borland strapped on his skates and stood back on the ice again — for about two seconds – on Feb. 4.

“I fell — but I got right back up,” he said, showing the video below on his phone.

He worked in the gym to get stronger and eventually grew stronger standing on the ice. Recently, he donned his goalie pads and subbed-in as goalie for a team that was down a man. In no time, he stopped a shot on goal.

“I made the save, but I couldn’t get back up,” he said. “It made me realize what I need to work on, skating and leg strength — that’s my New Year’s goal, that I’ll be skating full time as close as I can.”

Dennis Borland warms up before practicing with other hockey players at his local rink. Photo by Joel Blocker, for UCHealth. Photo by Joel Blocker, for UCHealth.
Dennis Borland warms up before practicing with other hockey players at his local rink. Photo by Joel Blocker, for UCHealth. Photo by Joel Blocker, for UCHealth.

Recovery is hard and challenging

Borland has always enjoyed physical labor and outside activity. His new limitations are frustrating, but he credits his friends and family for getting him through and helping him keep his positive attitude.

“They tell me I’m an inspiration, but it was them — my friends who were pulling me forward,” Borland said. “I can’t change this — I have to deal with it. I’ve got to go forward, but friends help you so much in that way.”

His friends are now trying to help others. On Dec. 11, 2021, the Fort Collins Pond Hockey League, led by David “Bike” Beichley, is hosting a mobile blood drive to help others who may need blood products. FCPHL teamed up with Odell Brewing Company to provide each donor with a goodie basket.

Dennis getting his hockey gear on.
Dennis Borland gets ready to practice with other hockey players at his local rink. Photo by Joel Blocker, for UCHealth.

It is more important than ever to donate blood during the holiday months, said Bridget Aesoph, donor recruiter for Garth Englund Blood Donation Center.

“During this season of giving, the best gift you can give is to save a life,” she said. “Blood donations are always needed but the holiday season is a challenging time because people’s focus is elsewhere, but our need for blood products continues.”

Sign up for the drive here, or inquire about becoming a blood donor through the Fort Collins or Loveland blood donation centers and donate when you can.

Check out these other drives in Northern Colorado during the holiday season

Fort Collins

Dec. 3, 2021: 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m., Pint for Pint Old Town Churn, 234 N. College Ave., Fort Collins 80524, Sign up to donate.

Dec. 4, 2021: 9 a.m.-1 p.m., Mom’s Demand Action Community Blood Drive, Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, 2000 S. Lemay Ave., Fort Collins CO 80525, Sign up to donate.

Dec. 16, 2021: 11:30 a.m.-6 p.m., Raintree Athletic Club, 2555 S. Shields St., Fort Collins, CO 80526, Sign up to donate.

Jan. 11, 2022: 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunshine House, 139 Blood Drive, 2060 Perennial Lane, Fort Collins, CO 80526, Sign up to donate.

Jan. 22, 2022: 8 a.m.-3 p.m., Josephs’ Hardware Blood Drive, 2160 W. Drake Road, Unit A-5, Fort Collins, CO 80526, Sign up to donate.

Jan. 28, 2022: 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Sunshine House, 2482 Miles House Avenue, Fort Collins, CO 80525, Sign up to donate.

Greeley

Dec. 1, 2021: 9 a.m.-1 p.m, UCHealth Greeley Hospital, 6767 W 29th St, Greeley, CO 80634;  Sign up to donate.

Jan. 5, 2022: 9 a.m.-1 p.m, UCHealth Greeley Hospital, 6767 W 29th St, Greeley, CO 80634;  Sign up to donate.

Feb. 2, 2022: 9 a.m.-1 p.m, UCHealth Greeley Hospital, 6767 W 29th St, Greeley, CO 80634;  Sign up to donate.

Loveland

Dec. 17, 2021: 8 a.m.-4 p.m., UCHealth Medical Center of the Rockies Trauma Team Blood Drive, 2500 Rocky Mountain Ave., Loveland, CO 80538, Sign up to donate.

Jan. 20, 2022: 8 a.m.-2 p.m., Sunshine House Center, 172 Blood Drive, 1801 Piney River Drive,  Loveland, CO 80538, Sign up to donate.

Longmont

Dec. 7, 2021: 9 a.m.-3 p.m., UCHealth Longmont Clinic, 1925 W Mountain View Ave., Longmont, CO 80501, Sign up to donate.

Dec. 9, 2021:10 a.m.-2 p.m., UCHealth Longs Peak Hospital, 1750 E Ken Pratt Blvd., Longmont, CO 80504, Sign up to donate.

Jan. 11, 2022: 9 a.m.-3 p.m., UCHealth Longmont Clinic, 1925 W Mountain View Ave., Longmont, CO 80501, Sign up to donate.

Jan. 13, 2022:10 a.m.-2 p.m., UCHealth Longs Peak Hospital, 1750 E Ken Pratt Blvd., Longmont, CO 80504, Sign up to donate.

Estes Park

Dec. 20, 2021: 9 a.m.-3 p.m.: Estes Valley Community Center Blood Drive, 555 Prospect Ave., Estes Park, CO 80517, Sign up to donate.

Frederick

Jan. 15, 2022: 10 a.m.-2 p.m., The Town of Frederick Community Blood Drive, Town of Frederick, 311 Fifth St., Frederick, CO 80530, Sign up to donate.

Bellvue

Jan. 16, 2022: 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Morning Fresh Dairy Blood Drive, 5821 W. County Road 54E, Bellvue, CO 80512, Sign up to donate.

 

About the author

Kati Blocker has always been driven to learn and explore the world around her. And every day, as a writer for UCHealth, Kati meets inspiring people, learns about life-saving technology, and gets to know the amazing people who are saving lives each day. Even better, she gets to share their stories with the world.

As a journalism major at the University of Wyoming, Kati wrote for her college newspaper. She also studied abroad in Swansea, Wales, while simultaneously writing for a Colorado metaphysical newspaper.

After college, Kati was a reporter for the Montrose Daily Press and the Telluride Watch, covering education and health care in rural Colorado, as well as city news and business.

When she's not writing, Kati is creating her own stories with her husband Joel and their two young children.

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