I cannot donate blood. Because I need blood. Sometimes, desperately.
In July last year, my health deteriorated rapidly and I was admitted to hospital. It was not an easy decision for our family doctor to make. It was during the height of the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and hospitals were under pressure. I tested negative. But, I needed emergency care. He referred me to a specialist physician, who after a few tests, determined that I was way below what is considered the normal haemoglobin level.
And so, I was prepped to receive my first blood transfusion. I was terrified. I didn’t know what to expect. I thought to myself; okay, maybe this blood tranfusion will help and I could go home in a day or two.
I was wrong. I was in hospital for two months. During that time I had at least ten blood transfusions. And then, I Iost count.
I was diagnosed with an auto-immune condition that affects my blood vessels and ultimately, blood flow to my tissues and organs. With that diagnosis, my world changed. I was administered a series of strong treatments in hospital and treated by various doctors, amid several health complications. It was as if my body caved in. Almost a year later, I am still grappling with it, physically and emotionally. I feel like a yo-yo. There are good days and bad days.
My last blood transfusion was two months ago, again due to health complications, but thankfully not as severe. Now, I know what to expect – the procedure, the process and the waiting… Because the blood isn’t always readily available and you have to wait for a match, and then for the blood to be delivered.
In those hours of waiting, I realised, that donating blood has to be the most selfless act. Those who donate blood, do so, not knowing who is going to be receiving it. They do it out of humanity; knowing that it will make a difference to someone, somewhere.
While waiting, I recalled the many stories I had covered as a journalist – of pleas from the SA National Blood Service – SANBS – for more people to donate blood when stocks were critically low, and of people facing life-threatening situations, in need of blood. I remembered how, in one interview, I tried to clutch the microphone firmly as I spoke to a young cancer warrior, but my eyes welled up with tears. It almost felt surreal that I was on the other end. But this was, and is, very much my reality. I wanted to crumble and cry. But I needed to be strong.
YOUR blood helped me stay strong. YOUR blood gave me the strength to fight.
We may say every drop counts. But we do not realise the power of that, until we need blood. I certainly did not.
We draw red hearts to symbolise love, but for me the symbolism runs deeper. The colour of love is the colour of blood because donating blood truly is an act of love.
As we observe World Blood Donor Month this June, I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to donate blood…
I am able to write this today, because you were brave enough and compassionate enough to donate blood.
I am forever grateful for YOUR love.