NEW YORK, N.Y. (PIX11) – A dozen people who had never met before gathered at New York Blood Center’s donor center on the Upper East Side on Tuesday morning because they have something in common. They’ve all played a part in saving Stacey Sottile’s life by simply donating blood.

“Everyone was needed for me to be here today,” Sottile said.

Sottile was diagnosed with sickle cell disease when she was only 11 months old. She’s now 51. The Queens-born woman has been in and out of the hospital her entire life and has received hundreds of blood transfusions.

“Living with sickle cell, it’s very rough,” Sottile added. “It’s a very painful disease.”

She received a sweet Valentine’s Day sweet on Tuesday when she met a dozen of those selfless people who donated their blood. Her donors are both men and women and range in age from 31 to 71 years old.

Annemarie Appell is one of them and has donated 283 times since the 80s.

“If you don’t do it, people are not going to live,” Appell said. “They need the donations. Every day people need. They have car accidents, anything,” Appell said.

Grace Nardi is another donor and first felt inspired to donate when her grandmother needed blood transfusions.

“I wasn’t able to donate my blood in time for her to get the transfusions, but I felt this need to replace what she was able to get and pay that forward for people and I just kept doing it, even after she didn’t need blood transfusions anymore,” Nardi said.

Sickle cell disease is a blood disorder that affects the shape of red blood cells, which carry oxygen all over the body. Because of the sickle-shaped cells, blood flow is minimized or blocked.

New York Blood Center has a team of researchers who study how blood transfusions improve circulation.

Dr. Karina Yazdanbakhsh is a lead researcher and Vice President and Director of Research Development at the Lindsley F. Kimball Research Institute.

“The transfusions somehow magically [improve] this blood flow, not just by unblocking it, but also invigorating certain cells that go around and remove and unclog these cells that are stuck in the vascular channel,” Dr. Yazdanbakhsh said.

When Sottile was first diagnosed, doctors told her parents that she couldn’t have children, but she’s proved them wrong.

“I grew up thinking that I would never be a mom, so just to have two healthy young men, it’s a blessing,” Sottile said. “I just want to thank any potential donors out there and all the donors that showed up.”

The gratitude that Sottile feels is the same way many other patients feel when receiving that life-saving blood. To find a blood donation center or blood drive near you, visit New York Blood Center’s website here. One blood donation can save up to three lives.