Mar 25, 2009

"I'm sorry I wasn't a donor"

My friend, Helen has aggressive Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma (diagnosed last February) and several days ago finished her 14th round of chemotherapy and needed several blood transfusions (again) to get her red blood cell count up. Helen has blood type A-, which is hard to come by and much needed.

Helen's family, of course, brings in people to donate blood -regardless of blood type- in my friend's name so the hospital can keep supplying Helen with blood transfusions. The day before yesterday, the hospital gave her one bag of A- (she needed at least 3) and informed the family that they were out of her blood type and nothing they could do.

Helen's family had a niece with the same blood type on hold in case of an emergency like this, but luckily I was able to round up two bags of her blood type and they were sent to in Helen's name to the hospital she is being treated.

I went by yesterday to see how my friend was doing and if the blood had arrived because I had been warned by a blood donation worker that because Greek hospitals are in dire need of blood they may try to "cheat" us of our second incoming bag if we don't press them.

True enough, Helen was informed that a bag of blood would be transfused after noon but they had only one bag. I insisted that that there were two incoming bags and when Helen's sister, who had many times battled with the hospital's blood donation center, gave them a piece of her mind, the second bag of type A- magically appeared.

As I sat with my friend, Helen looked at the blood bag dripping life in her veins and said "May God bless the person who donated this blood. I'm sorry I wasn't a donor".

-"I wish you hadn't had to live this to change your mind", I replied.

I reminded her that two years before she got sick our workplace (we work at the same organization) had organized two blood donation drives at our offices.

-"You know how many people showed up the first time? 16! Out of 150 people only 16. The second time, six months later was even more tragic, only 2."

Helen and Zoe were among the many colleagues that hadn't even bothered to show up. Turned out that when Helen had been first admitted to hospital, 13 months ago, with what (then) seemed ovarian cancer, Zoe needed an operation and which required blood and went to our director asking for help.

Because our workplace's blood donation drive had not been a success and the blood collectors were from a hospital and disgusted with our turnout, they gave us a hard time about distributing our small blood collection to colleagues who needed it. (I can't blame them… because if you knew where I worked you'd be upset too.) Hospital teamed blood drives require some bags of blood to be handed over for hospital needs, so I had to officially authorize my donation to be transferred to Zoe, who was desperately looking for blood.

My colleague got her operation, is healthy and is still not a blood donor.