Last night I attended an event organized by Canadian Blood Services as a “Thank You” to loyal donors who had reached a milestone number of donations. I attended because I reached 50 donations last year, but mine was a humble milestone compared with others in attendance who had made 200, 300, or 400 donations. Impressive.
The guest speakers for the evening were parents of a six-year-old boy who survived a potentially life-threatening illness thanks to blood transfusions (too many to count) and a stem cell transplant. The mother of this boy told her harrowing story with heartfelt simplicity. As she laid out the bald facts of the terror they lived, everyone in the room could see a woman who had lived through the kind of hell that every parent dreads. She and her husband didn’t carry physical scars or marks, but their lives had been bruised in a way that would never allow them to look at life or their children the same way again.
The little boy is now eight, so he and they have had time to regenerate and move on to next steps, but those steps are different from what they would have expected three or four years ago before this all began, because people with walking bruises do things differently. They speak at public events to promote awareness. When they look at blood donors on a stage, they don’t see individuals; they see the total number of lives saved or improved. They think a blood donation is a more romantic Valentine’s gift than roses.
That’s the thing about bruises, I guess. The smarting pain startles us out of our comfortable realities and makes us stop and think about where we were going and what we were doing before the impact. When we stop saying, “Ouch” and look around, sometimes we find we simply have to go in an entirely different direction.
Only 4% of people eligible to donate blood in Canada actually do.
Canadian Blood Services would love the other 96% to move from “Donating blood is a good thing to do” to “Donating blood is a good thing for me to do.”