The gift of life

(in order of appearance)

ARLENE, nine months pregnant
HUSBAND, nervous and pacing

It’s Christmas Eve and we are in an Ottawa hospital labour and delivery room. It has been recently updated to accommodate comfortable La-Z-Boy chairs and a shower big enough for two. There is a small Christmas tree on the window sill.

A young couple has just arrived at the room. Arlene is a first-time mother, so she doesn’t know if this delivery will take two hours or two days. She is in the grips of a powerful contraction.

ARLENE: Oh. My. God. I need to sit down.

HUSBAND: Okay! Let’s sit down.

NURSE: Keep walking. It helps. When I was in labour I walked and walked. It helps.

ARLENE: (Heading toward the bed.) Ooooooh, no. I really need to sit down.

HUSBAND: She really needs to sit down.

The NURSE shakes her head, but comes to the bedside and arranges the blankets and pillows.

NURSE: Have you considered something for the pain?

ARLENE: Oh, yes. Bring it on.

HUSBAND: Bring it on.

NURSE: OK, I’ll be right back. It’s your first, so this will take a while. Use the shower. Keep walking. It helps.

(The NURSE leaves to get an anaesthesiologist. In the background we hear the distinctive whoomp, whoomp, whoomp of a helicopter. Some time passes and the NURSE enters stage left.)

NURSE: There’s been a serious multi-vehicle accident. They’re bringing the victims in for emergency surgery. All the anaesthesiologists are needed in emergency. Sorry, but there won’t be an epidural available for you.

HUSBAND: There, there . . . You’ve never looked lovelier . . .

That was the scene as it happened (more or less)

The night my daughter was born. In the seconds before I heard the whoomp, whoomp of the helicopter, my labour pain seemed insurmountable. I wanted relief, and I wanted it NOW. But the sound of that helicopter changed my perspective. The pain itself hadn’t changed, but my view of it had.

I was in pain for a celebratory reason; my pain would be short-lived and have a happy ending. Elsewhere, the people in that helicopter had not chosen their pain, and it wasn’t happy; maybe it would even had tragic results. I knew I would celebrate that holiday season, while others would be suffering. Knowing that others had needs far greater than mine allowed me to let go of the thought of even seeking pain relief and I settled into fully experiencing the birth. Instead of focusing on pain, I focused on the process.

Unfortunately, accidents like the one that Christmas Eve are far too common over the holiday season. Victims of these accidents often need blood transfusions. This week Canadian Blood Services issued a media release to let the public know that they need 22,000 more donors in the next few weeks.

I am a regular donor, and I have an appointment next Tuesday to make my 47th donation. Because I’ve never forgotten the whoomp, whoomp of a helicopter on the night my daughter gifted us with her life, I always give the gift of life to someone else at this time of year.

I invite you to be one of the 22,000 they seek. It’s free, and it helps to make our world a better place.

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3 thoughts on “The gift of life

  1. Jennifer

    I, too, have been a life-long (life-giving) blood donor and will be at the Canadian Blood Services next Wednesday afternoon for my 60-something donation. While I always knew I was doing something good by donating my blood I never fully understood what it meant until my husband needed many transfusions during his cancer journey.

    This would be the scenario. A frightened wife would race her hemorrhaging husband to the emergency room. The cool, calm doctors and nurses would do their thing. A bag of blood would arrive and with it relief – thank God something could be done. With the transfusions we could literally see the colour come back into his face and energy come back into his body. As the recipient we were so grateful that someone made that selfless donation. We could not thank that person personally but wanted to – we wanted to say thank you for saving my husband’s life… to say, you have no idea what a good thing you did today.

    I know donating blood is not for everyone but it is literally the gift of life. If you have at all been thinking about giving, go to your local donation centre and give. You may save a life, you may extend a life. And you even get a cookie when you’re done.

  2. Chris

    I only wish I could still give blood like I used to. There comes an age at which they tell you that you’re too old! Funny, that, because my blood still seems to work pretty well for me.


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