Tuesday, January 19, 2010

You can give amazing gifts without spending a dime!

You will not be able to see the joy and relief on the recipients' faces for these gifts, but they are truly the most valuable gifts one can give.  These are the gifts of blood and organs.  I must admit that I am not the best at blood donations.  I tend to pass out after giving blood and it has made me avoid it a bit.  But, when I gave blood for one of Bean's transfusions, I was fine, so it is my plan to start giving on a regular basis once again.  I just need to make sure I eat heartily and drink lots of water the day before and the day of giving.  Bean was given the gift of blood numerous times while hospitalized and it truly kept her alive.  She was often suffering from anemia because infants do not reproduce their blood the way adults do, and she was having blood draws constantly - so all that was blood she lost.  The transfusions were necessary to keep her blood volume up where it should be and provide her with a means of oxygenation.  Infants are particularly difficult to get blood for because blood has to be CMV negative - Cytomegalovirus is carried by over half the population and causes no harm, but because of their lack of immune system development, infants can not handle exposure.  At this point, with her weakened immune system, Bean will probably never be able to handle CMV positive blood donations.  I found out when I went to give that I am CMV negative, so my blood can be used for infants.  An added motivation for giving blood.  Giving blood is pretty easy too.  Most areas have a few blood banks to choose from and often your work place or a local place will sponsor a blood drive where the blood bank comes to you.  The American Association of Blood Banks has an online form for locating your local blood bank.

Giving organs is more difficult and is often only possible after someone has lost their own life.  There are a few organs where donation is possible without a death being involved or from living donors:  kidney, bone marrow, lobes of the liver, lung or part of a lung, pancreas, or part of the intestine.  The rest of the organs are only donated upon one's death, when they are no longer needed by that person.  According to organdonor.gov, there were 105,327 waiting list candidates as of January 12, 2010!  What an overwhelming number!  If you have not already registered as a donor, you can follow the instructions on the "Be a Donor" page of organdonor.gov to become a donor and take care of the necessary logistics so you can be sure that your organs are available.  You can also register to be a living donor and you will be put on a match list.  This requires a blood test and some additional paperwork, but is especially needed in minority communities.  you can also find out more information about organ donation and transplants at the United Network for Organ Sharing website.  This is the agency that keeps the database of donors and recipients, keeps track of all transplant data, and offers professional and patient services.  The statistics at their website includes Bean's transplant now.  Strange to think that she is part of a big database of information that may help others in the future, but also good...

So, you really can give the most amazing gift - the gift of life - without spending a dime!  Please consider becoming a regular blood donor and designating yourself as an organ donor.  I can speak from personal experience when I say that you will provide someone with a wonderful, wonderful gift.  And I thank all of you out there who are already regular blood donors and have designated as organ donors.  It was someone like you who have allowed us to have our precious little Bean at home with us!

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