A few months ago a Facebook friend of ours had to have surgery. Brain surgery. Real dangerous shit. He's the real estate agent who drove us around for two days back in 2009 and showed us almost 30 homes and ultimately helped us buy the house we have lived in for the past 5 years. He even did the final walk through so my wife and I wouldn't have to fly in from Ottawa to do it. We've stayed in touch on Facebook since then and followed the changes in his life, as he and his wife had their first child and then proudly announced earlier this year that another one was on the way.
During his surgery he almost died. He started to bleed and wouldn't stop. There was something like a 1% chance of this happening and it did. It took blood donations from 60 people to save his life. They pumped 12 litres of blood into him to keep him alive. 12 litres. His body only holds 4. He came out of surgery without a single drop of the blood he went in with - 3 times over.
Healing and grateful to be alive he decided to give a little back and hold a blood drive down at the local Canadian Blood Services location in Waterloo and he asked all his friends on Facebook if they would consider donating.
I had low blood iron for the longest time and then was on some pretty fun medications after that and had never donated before. Being med free and with a healthy hemoglobin level right now the only thing stopping me was a healthy fear of needles and queasiness at the sight of blood, which seemed like really lame-ass excuses. So I booked my first ever appointment to donate blood for Tuesday of last week.
Then, in what can only be described as a karmic twist of the Universe, the Monday before my blood donation appointment my wife and I found out that our daughter does not weigh enough to bank her own blood before her surgery. You see, she has severe scoliosis and needs to have spinal surgery in the new year to have metal rods cemented and screwed into her spine to keep it straight. It's a 10 hour surgery and if not everything goes as planned she'll need blood. Better it's her own than someone else's too. Only now that was not possible.
My wife cannot donate because of some funky rule that prohibits donations from people who lived in France for more than 3 months during certain years. Seeing as she lived there for a year during one of those years she's ineligible (something about mad cow disease and not being able to test for it until after you're dead). I will be tested for compatibility (blood type, antibodies, etc...) and if I'm a match I will provide a directed donation to have on hand for my daughter's surgery. I'll only be able to donate a couple litres though. A worst case scenario would see her needing more than what I can offer.
That means there'll be blood on hand from the blood bank. I really hope none of it will be needed, but it's awfully reassuring that it's there if it is in fact needed.
So on Tuesday I went in and donated blood for the first time. It was almost completely painless, everyone was very supportive, and I got to have juice and cookies afterwards. My friend was even there talking with all the people donating and thanking them. If I'm being completely honest, I felt really good about it. The best way I can describe it was that I felt like I was making an immediate and profound impact on somebody's life. I went home afterwards proudly sporting my "First Time Donor" pin and feeling great (though getting out of bed the next morning was a challenge. I was really tired!)
I've been telling people this story ever since and am encouraging everyone to go find out if they are able to give blood, and if they are to please donate. It makes a difference. It saved my friend's life and could very well save my daughter's.
P.S. I'm cross posting this on our family scoliosis journey blog. Read up on what we're going through, and what it's like to go down this path as part of the Canadian medical system.