By Paul Wykowski
For The Catholic Messenger
The lady from the Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center (MVRBC) called to remind me of my upcoming platelet (apheresis) donation. Her reminder really moved me when she said that she would like to “thank me for my donations for those who can’t and who are pediatric and adult cancer patients helped by the donation.” Beyond the coffee mugs and T-shirts, it gave me pause to think about why I really donate.
I’m fortunate enough not to have had cancer, but I have witnessed many who have and the pain they endured. My mother was a survivor for 14 years after her treatments but those eight months of chemotherapy took a physical toll on her and an emotional one on our family. My father was not as fortunate and succumbed in his battle.
I remember walking the halls of M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and seeing an athletic young man who should have been out on the basketball court shooting hoops with his friends. Instead, he was sitting in a wheelchair with six IV bags dripping into his arm. A young lady, probably about the same age, was walking the halls with a bald head and sallow eyes. She should have been enjoying activities outside of the hospital walls. I hope that they won their battles with cancer. However, I’ve also seen people in their last stages whose their bodies were a shell of their former selves. Those images etched in my memory are what really drive my donating and my wanting to help those who need it today.
This letter of appreciation is to the staff of MVRBC, especially the crew in Burlington, who bring home the importance of the donations and make the apheresis process a pleasant one. This letter could have been sent directly to MVRBC but that would have just been preaching to the choir. I am making this message public for an additional reason. There is a need for additional platelet and plasma donors in this area. Cancer treatment options are advancing, but the need for blood components remains. This process takes longer than the normal whole blood donation, but one apheresis donation can help several patients.
The pain of a needle stick is a small inconvenience compared to what those patients have to feel when they face many needle sticks and the side effects of their treatments. The typical donation takes around 90 minutes, but you get to sit in a recliner and watch TV or read if you wish. You do the same thing at home, so why not multi-task and do something useful at the same time?
For those who say they are afraid of needles, surely people have experienced some pain in their life worse than a two-second sting of a sterile needle. If this is the worst pain you have to endure, I recommend that you talk to a person who is experiencing chemo or radiation therapy. Then you may change your mind.
If you’re still looking for a Lenten activity, this would be a great act of charity. Call MVRBC at (800) 747-5401 to set up your appointment.
You’ll be glad you did.
(Paul Wykowski is a member of Church of All Saints Parish, Keokuk.)