73: Because Someone Else Gave

73: Because Someone Else Gave

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Volunteering & Giving Back

Because Someone Else Gave

Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone.

~G.B. Stern

A young woman named Tann checked me and went over my health history. As she prepped my arm for the needle stick — the worst part of the whole thing if you ask me — she asked if I was expecting anyone to stand by my side. Tann remembered me from previous blood drives and how one of my children was always present to support me.

She remembered why I give blood.

Two years ago, my son Nathan was recovering from what we believed were symptoms of a concussion that he received from a hard hit in a football game. Everything seemed to indicate textbook concussion symptoms — light-headedness, headaches, difficulty concentrating, and tiring easily. The only real concern seemed to be that it was taking so long to see improvement in any of these symptoms. Instead of getting better, his symptoms seemed to get worse. It wasn’t until almost a month later that we would find out why.

Nathan was just fifteen at the time, and had a restless night of sleep. I had gone downstairs to his room to wake him for school. He slowly stood up and started to get ready for his day. I was still there when his eyes went blank and he fell. I caught him enough to cushion his fall on the way down. One of Nathan’s sisters called 911 and he was quickly taken by ambulance to the emergency room.

I told the doctors everything that had transpired. They still seemed to be looking for complications of a concussion, but it was his low red blood cell counts that earned him admittance into the hospital for more testing.

The doctors observed Nathan overnight and continued with more extensive tests. The next morning, as he was being wheeled out of his room for another test, our family doctor stayed behind to talk to me. He explained that Nathan’s red blood cell counts were even lower than the day before. There did not seem to be a reasonable explanation for this that they could identify in their hospital. He explained that Nathan was being prepped for an immediate blood transfusion and he needed to be transferred to the university hospital. For some reason, Nathan was not producing his own red blood cells. He would undergo a bone marrow biopsy to test for leukemia.

It is a strange and bizarre feeling to be near your child but be completely helpless at the same time. That is how I felt as I held Nathan’s hand while he received a life-saving blood transfusion in transit to the new hospital. And that is how I felt as I later watched a pediatric oncologist extract bone marrow from his hip.

As it turned out, Nathan did not have leukemia. Further testing revealed that a rare virus had attacked his red blood cells in a way that mimicked leukemia. We also learned some other things. For one, Nathan needed that blood transfusion to survive. He has the rare blood type of O-negative. His particular blood type can be donated to anyone; but those with O-negative blood can only receive the same blood type in a transfusion. There is a genuine need for donations of O-negative blood.

I do not have this blood type, so my blood could not be used to save my son. But someone else’s donation did. I wish I could thank this person, who probably volunteered at a blood drive just like the ones I go to, but I know it is impossible to do so. The only way I know to show my appreciation is to donate my own blood.

That was why I was there about to have my blood drawn. I know, firsthand, that donating matters. And that is why Tann, the blood drive worker, remembered me and how my son took his turn to stand by my side at the last donation drive.

She remembered that I give because someone else gave.

~Robin Hakanson-Grunder

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