To Give or Not to Give: Is It Really A Question?
I’m not great with blood. I’ve experienced a series of fainting spells in life, and most of those incidents involved looking at blood: a movie with a particularly gruesome scene, a deep cut in the palm of my hand (it required only one stitch!), a quick spray of it on my green, wool sweater after slamming my finger in a door. Each time this happened, I blamed blood. I blamed its viscous texture, its deceptively beautiful jewel-tone, it’s coppery, metallic taste and smell. I considered it a quirky shortcoming on my part, a weakness that would be part of my makeup forever. In my view, seeing blood meant there was a problem. In great quantities, that meant that there was an even bigger problem. I associated the sight of it with terror and mayhem instead of curiosity and reverence, and shied away from any situation which might have exposed me to the sight of it. Essentially, blood made me queasy, and I didn’t see much need to think about it unless I absolutely had to.
Of course, being blood-phobic (hemophobic, just in case you wanted the fancy medical term) not only served as a source of embarrassment to me, but it became a source of amusement to my friends and family. It was not unusual for people to cover my eyes when watching a horror film, laughing mischievously, just in case I “went down in a pile!” Even I could find the humour in these situations, as long as I didn’t have to actually suffer the sight of blood. Sure, people could make fun of me all they wanted as long as I didn’t have to deal with this strange substance which flows through all of our bodies. I felt no shame in averting my eyes; falling down was far worse, in my view.
As I’ve grown older, though, and through various life experiences, I have come to understand that while I may associate blood with illness and death, it’s actually the complete opposite: blood is, quite literally, life.
I am the oldest of three girls, all of us born very close together, with no more than three years between myself and youngest sister. As one may imagine, three pregnancies, especially so close together, were physically hard on my mother, and following the arrival of my youngest sister, things took an ominous turn. Immediately after giving birth, she began to hemorrhage profusely. This was the result of doctor error, and there was a general panic as the focus went from caring for a wailing baby to trying to save my mother whose life was actually draining away. The situation became so dire that my father, who was waiting expectantly in the waiting room, was met by a doctor and a chaplain asking if he would like his wife to have last rites. The doctor assured him that he would do his best to save her life, but the situation was indisputably grim and my father found himself faced with the possibility of having to raise 3 daughters, all of them essentially babies, on his own.
A team of medical professionals worked to save my mother that day. The huge quantity of blood she lost would have certainly been enough to end her life, had it not been for the succession of blood transfusions she received. When she later retold the story, she said she could not remember the precise details of that experience, mainly because she was so weak she could not open her eyes. What she did recall was a sense of knowing that she was close to death. She remembered hearing the last rites, and the urgent instructions of the doctors and nurses involved. She could hear the sounds of machines working and the clank of metal against metal. She did not remember the blood as it worked its way into her body, or caring where help came from as long as it came and gave her a second chance. Thankfully, the blood transfusions worked.
My father told us that it was a very strange experience, exiting the hospital with his newborn daughter days later and having to leave my mother behind. She remained hospitalized for some time after, her health still in a precarious state; but she was alive, and that was something of a miracle in his view.
Was it, though? Was it divine intervention or was it something just as beautiful, but much more simple?
Here’s what I am certain of: if those donations of blood had not been made, my mother would have died at 23-years-old. My sisters and I would have grown up without ever knowing her and my father would have been widowed with 3 children before he turned 30. Without the generosity of nameless, faceless people, a young family would have been permanently broken, a young life ended before it had a chance to really start.
My mother got to live just over another 40 years, passing away just a couple of years ago. We still considered her to be too young to leave us, and felt an undeniable sense of injustice about her death, but what we cannot deny is that we received a gift all those years ago. We were able to grow up with her as our mother, and she and my father remained in a solid, happy marriage until the end. Yes, we all miss her terribly now, but we are so grateful that she was given a second chance those years ago, and that during that time she experienced happiness, contentment, excitement, laughter and love. She traveled, became a grandmother five times over, and accomplished all of her professional dreams. This was possible solely because of the kindness of others who asked for nothing in return, who gave a chance at life freely, the most precious thing any of us could ever receive.
Sometimes, I think about those people. I let myself wonder what motivated them to donate something so very personal to someone they would never come to know. Was it enough for them to imagine the positive impact of their selflessness? Could any of them have predicted that by saving one life, they had effectively saved five?
I still have trouble with blood. I still cower under the covers when watching certain movies, and I look at the walls whenever I feel the needle go in for blood work. While I am reasonably confident that I will never be completely comfortable with it, I am also able to see the genuine beauty of blood. It is life. It is second chances and smiling, rosy cheeks. It is happiness and the flood of relief. It truly is, for all of us, everything.
- Tara Teeling
Consider getting involved. Join Academy of Learning Career College on October 18, 2017 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. for our “What’s Your Blood Type?” event and Cookie Drive so that you can find out your blood type. The following week, AOLCC is Adopting-A-Clinic for the dates of October 24-26, 2017. Our goal is to provide at least 10 donors who would be willing to donate for those in need in the Kingston area. Transportation will be provided on October 25, 2017, to and from the college to Canadian Blood Services for those who would like to participate. If you are interested in donating, please visit : http://aolkingston.com/?p=4616 to determine whether or not you are eligible to contribute.
Making the decision to donate is a personal one, and there should never be any pressure to do so. Perhaps the best way to decide is to consider how your donation would affect someone else. Could you be the reason someone gets another chance at life? Will you be the person who keeps a family intact?
Or, will you or someone you love be the one in need?