A 3-year-old girl lies in a hospital bed in the middle of the room with monitors attached to her bare chest. She’s awake, but she doesn’t lift her head as we walk into the room. Still, she follows us with her eyes. The only sound we hear from her is a small cough while a nurse comes in to check her stats.Her dad sits alone on a bench by the window. Her mom is at home with their other children and they have no other family in the area. It’s a common scene for my colleague Mike Norman, whose job at the Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center includes visiting hospitals in the area, explaining what we do for families and asking them if they’d like to host a blood drive in honor of their loved one.
But this is my first hospital tour, and I am heartbroken.
We’re on a floor filled with children who are scheduled to receive a bone marrow transfusion. Before you can enter the patient area, everyone must stop in a small lobby to scrub their hands for half a minute. At The Blood Center, we learn to sing our “A, B, C’s” or the “Happy Birthday” song twice while washing our hands. There are hand sanitizer stations outside each hospital room and visitors must rub some onto their hands when entering and leaving the room.
In one 13-year-old girl’s room, we must also don Mickey Mouse-themed facial masks. She’s watching YouTube videos in bed on her phone while her mother wipes down a counter with disinfectant. The young girl wears black, thick-framed glasses and is bald. She has leukemia. Her mom does not speak English, and Mike asks the teen if she can translate for him. She gamely agrees with a bright smile.
In moments such as this, Mike explains to the mom through her young interpreter, people at the girl’s school or church often want to help, but they don’t know how. He suggests they host a blood drive in the girl’s honor. The mom says the teen is being homeschooled while she’s in and out of treatment, and Mike suggests the school she last attended still may want to help. The mom readily agrees, giving Mike authorization to use her daughter’s name and promising to send a photo for a flier Mike will send out to promote the drive at two Neighborhood Donor Centers near where the family lives.
The teen herself has been given blood transfusions thanks to the selfless acts of strangers, who gave up their time to donate. And because of this brave young girl and her mother, more lives are going to be saved.
If you would like to schedule a blood drive in a loved one’s honor, please email RTN@giveblood.org or call (713) 791-6670.