It’s been really hard to turn on the news lately. Every day it seems there’s another tragedy, bigger than the one the day before. Incidents like the mass killing in Nice fuel the xenophobia in the Western world. Some start questioning immigration policies and that crazy scary US presidential candidate only adds fuel to the fire. It’s a mess out there.
Whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed by all the tragedy, I go to the Canadian Blood Services Facebook page. This past week, CBS posted a number of stories that reminded me of the good in the world. Every story is a feel-good story on that Facebook page.
There I read about the Texan student who joined the stem-cell registry during a high school blood drive. A few years later, he was matched with a child in need, so he stepped up and saved a life. A 6-year-old Calgary boy undergoing a recurrence of leukemia, a recurrence that would likely have ended his life, received that healthy Texan’s marrow and is now cancer free and thriving. Donor and recipient met for the first time this week.
I think a lot about the stem-cell registry because I know someone who might have benefitted from it. My dear friend Scott, whom I wrote about in one of my first posts, died of lymphoma 22 years ago this month. I vividly remember his despair upon learning doctors could not locate a bone-marrow match. Gruelling chemotherapy had decimated his immune system. As a result, he developed an opportunistic infection and died 4 short months following his diagnosis. Would a bone-marrow transplant have saved his life too?
Out of interest, I learned that registering to be a stem-cell donor is as simple as four painless cheek swabs. The process of donating stem cells or bone marrow is more involved but that’s assuming the potential donor is matched with someone in need. Somehow I think I could endure a bit of discomfort to save someone’s life, but nobody would want my tainted marrow and I’m too old anyhow (registry age limits are between 17 and 35 years). I will have to count on others to step up, not for me since I wouldn’t survive the rigorous process of a transplant, but for those who could benefit.
There’s another CBS story that made me cry happy tears, one that Trumps all others. (Try fearing people from far lands after you read this.) Over the last few years, a group of Syrian refugees arrived in Canada, settling in Winnipeg. They wanted to find a way to express their thanks to the community that welcomed them.
So two dozen of these Syrian refugees donated blood. (This picture is from the CBS Facebook page; I didn’t think they’d mind if I borrowed it.) What an amazing way to give back to Canada. They’d escaped a war-torn country. The frequent bombings and shootings resulted in a constant need for blood, so they became experts at donating to help their compatriots. One fellow in the group had donated three dozen times in Syria. When they heard there was a blood shortage here, they willingly pulled up their sleeves. Thanks, Syrians, for giving where you live. You’re helping people like me.