The other day I ran a blood drive at our church. I won’t tell you how it went yet, because first I want to tell you a story. I want to tell you the story about why blood donation is important and what it is like to be a receiver. Later I will tell you about what it is like to donate, but not now. Now is the story about receiving, because if there were no receivers, there would be no need to donate. That would be a nice world, but it is not our world. In our world there is a great need, and I will share you one story why.
This story is a little sad. It is also a little funny. Parts of it are maybe a bit awkward. Kind of like life.
A couple of years ago my dad had cancer. It was hard, but not as hard as it should have been because I was pretty sick myself. I had been feeling more and more tired every day. I was also having a hard time doing things like focusing. Focusing is really important and if you can’t do it for a long period of time, you become unable to deal with life in general.
I went to a few doctors for this issue. The big problem is that my symptoms were all pretty vague. I was exhausted. Like all the time. I was always freezing. Even on a 90+ degree day. I was super spacey. Even more than usual. Super simple tasks were just overwhelming. It was terrible.
When your symptoms are super vague like that, you don’t give doctors a lot to go on. The doctors I saw were all very good. They ran all of the appropriate tests and gave me diagnosises like depression. This diagnosis made sense, but it didn’t feel quite right. I have struggled with depression. I know what that feels like. This did not feel quite like that. It felt more…physical.
The problem was that I was not telling them about the one symptom that would have put all the pieces into place. I didn’t tell them about it because I didn’t know it WAS a symptom. I thought it was normal. I was having VERY heavy hemorrhaging. Every month. (Sorry fellas. That’s the awkward part. It’s important so I mentioned it, but I’ll try not to mention it much more.)
When my father passed away I had to fly to Hawaii for his funeral. It is hard to fly on a plane full of super happy people headed to their honeymoon or dream vacation while you are mourning the loss of someone you love. It’s a little harder when you are having a hard time staying conscious.
By the time I got to the funeral I was also having a hard time breathing. I would have to stop and catch my breath after even a small flight of stairs. This made me feel even more depressed because I thought I was just really out of shape. I don’t remember the funeral. I don’t remember much after the funeral. I vaguely remember the next day. I think I passed out walking to my car. Apparently driving seemed like a good idea. Driving was probably NOT a good idea. I do remember somehow saying something to my sister about how maybe I needed to see a doctor.
The next thing I do remember is lying on a bed in a tiny island emergency room with a doctor and a few nurses looking nervously at me. It seems my red cell count had dropped to a critical level.
“You know,” the doctor said “I think there may be a man on the island who can help you. Let me call him.”
I fully expected some medicine man dressed in palm leaves with feathers in his hair and big sticks of fire to enter the scene, but at this point I welcomed anything that might help.
This guy did not show up.
Instead, a short time later, much to my surprise, George Clooney walked into the room. I smiled because obviously I was hallucinating. It was a nice hallucination, though, so I just kept on smiling.
Then George Clooney opened his mouth and started talking to me. The strange thing was that he didn’t sound at all like George Clooney. He was speaking in Matthew McConaughey’s voice. I started smiling even bigger because I was probably dying and heaven was now looking pretty nice.
“Well hello there darlin'” He said, dreamily. “today is your lucky day!”
I think I did about as much giggling as I had the strength for. Then I said something amazingly clever like “Uh-huh!”
“My name is Dr McDreamy and you’re one lucky lady because not only do I know what’s wrong with you, but I specialize in fixing it.”
I may or may not have giggled again and said something super witty like “Let’s just not tell The Pastor about this…”
He then proceeded to describe all of my symptoms to me. Even the one that made the men in the room uncomfortable.
“I can fix you right up and you’ll be as good as new by tomorrow morning. That’s a good thing because without this operation, you probably won’t make it till tomorrow. The only problem is that your blood count is so low that I’d probably kill you if I tried to operate, so let’s get a couple units of blood in you first, okay?”
I just kept grinning.
Then my brain kicked in.
You see, I’m all about giving blood. I’ve been a regular donor since I turned 18. You might even say that I’d been passionate about giving blood up until then. I’d give all the blood they wanted to take from me. The thought of putting someone ELSE’S blood in me, however, was an entirely different story.
I was not on board.
Then Dr McDreamy returned with a nurse and some forms, which I signed while staring stupidly at the doctor.
Everyone in the room was freaking out a little because apparently putting someone else’s blood in me was a big deal to everyone else in the room too. Everyone except Dr McDreamy. He just kept smiling that boyish Clooney grin and reassuring me in that soft southern McConaughey voice, telling me all about how he had traveled the country teaching doctors how to treat “young ladies such as yourself”. (*Sigh* Young lady…)
Sudddenly I began to notice things.
Things like where I was and what day it was. I also noticed that it was getting easier to breathe and I had energy. Like lots of energy. By the end of the second unit of blood I was pretty sure they were putting something else into my veins. Something so wonderful that it must be illegal. They assured me that nothing else was going into me. This was just what normal felt like.
Wait, normal people feel like they can lift a house and then run a marathon?
It turns out that I had a horomone imballance. This had been going on for most of my life. Because I hadn’t ever known anything else, I thought exhausted was normal. Having actual energy was weird.
Also it’s apparently normal to feel a bit superhuman after you receive blood.
That’s when it hit me. I felt amazing because I had the blood of a superhero in me. I was alive because someone was amazing enough to donate blood. My children would continue to have a mother because someone chose to give up time on a Hawaiian beach, and go have a needle stuck inside them instead.
And if that doesn’t make a superhero, I don’t know what does.