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.


nuntius said...

Thankfully i didn't have to pass through rough situations to make me think of blood donation. It's been almost a decade since i started giving blood, 2-3 times per year. This must be enough for the entire country cause over these last ten years there is only one things that remained the same: the lack of government propaganda. It's like, hey! we have soooo much blood supplies from nuntius to bother make a tv spot or run a campaign. What the hell, it's not even as important as teaching ppl to pay their taxes...

Flubberwinkle said...

Nuntius, I agree. If there were more commercials and advertisements promoting blood donating it it would help. We need a lot of "conditioning/brain-washing" to get it through our thick skulls that giving blood on a regular basis is actually a way of receiving because at some point we will all need a pint -or pints- of blood. Axreiasto na' nai.

We are a generous and hospitable people and will undoubtedly step up when someone asks us for a bag of blood. But, it's so damn frustrating that most Greeks have to be coerced into donating blood only when someone they know needs it.

p.s. The commercial paid-for-by-the-people-for-the-people teaching us that not paying our taxes is a bad thing is the government's way of reminding us that we will suck your blood anyway, don't bother donating any for medicinal reasons. Θα μας ρουφήξουν και το μεδούλι έτσι κι αλλιώς...

Beerli said...

My mother had non Hogkin's lymphoma. I feel for you and your friend Helen. You are a good friend. I shall be thinking of you.My neighbour survived it and she was in her forties at the time and had radiation therapy.You will be in my thoughts. As for the blood...I am just in the process of organising blood collection at work for June/July. We haven't got it off the ground before but the bush fire victims have needed it and we wanted to help. I am now curious to see whether we can actually go ahead. It is weird how we cannot seem to do something which is easy and needed.