I stripped Allistaire down to get her ready for a bath. The water ran in the bathtub and Allistaire stood outside the tub showing off her fantastic curves, of which there are many. As I sat there admiring her rotund glory, it dawned on me that she kind of looked like the color of a macaroni noodle. That’s strange I thought. Lately I had also noticed that her lips looked gray when I would put her in her carseat. It’s probably just the tinted window. Over and over I was able to explain away what I was seeing. A day later, however, the older women folk who care for the kids at the Bible Study I attend, agreed that she looked yellow and had actually thought so the week before. Emboldened by this affirmation, I determined to get Allistaire into the doctor. Her pediatrician took one look at Allistaire and said she was incredibly anemic. Within 10 minutes I first heard the word Leukemia uttered in connection to my child.
Two or three days, that’s how long Allistaire would have lived without getting a transfusion of blood. I asked Dr. Johnson, how long would Allistaire be able to live with a hematocrit (red blood cell count) of 9 without getting more blood. When she said 2 or 3 days I was horrified. “What if I hadn’t brought her in,” I asked with terror. “Oh, you would have brought her in, she would have gotten worse,” was the response. Allistaire was living with only 25% of the red blood cells she needed. Her heart was strained, pumping so hard and fast to get the little bit of blood to circulate throughout her body. That first little package of blood took 4 hours to be transfused into her so as to not overwhelm her heart. They told us that the blood would perk her up. At 3 in the morning we were shocked to witness a giddy, playful, happy little Allistaire standing and talking in her crib. Only hours earlier her expression was flat, her thumb never left her mouth and all she wanted to do was to be held and sleep if possible. It was as though someone had pushed a button and brought her from death to life. Only days ago did I learn how literally this was true.
Since that first little “pedi pack” of blood, Allistaire has had 12 additional packs of blood and 3 transfusions of platelets. Allistaire could die from cancer, but she most assuredly would have died without getting more blood. She has no shot of being cured from cancer without having her life sustained and supported by additional blood in the mean time. You might have an idea of where this is going. Yes, I’m asking you to seriously consider donating blood. No, I’m asking you to donate blood. We may know in our minds that when we donate blood is it helps someone else. Here’s the deal, Allistaire IS actually alive because someone donated blood. This is not some abstract concept, so don’t let it be an abstraction. Are you a mom? Look at your child’s face and imagine that you have the ability to save your child’s life by giving a tiny bit of yours away – a tiny bit that you can get back. Are you a grandma? Look at your grandchild. Are you a husband? Look at your wife. Are you a friend? Are you a co-worker? Look at the faces of those around you and know, that though it might not be their flesh that your blood will sustain, the person whose life is sustained by your blood is just as real and precious as they are. You and I are probably not the folks who will find the cure for cancer. Such a quest is utterly daunting and we think, what in the world can we do about cancer? It is easy to feel defeated and become cynical. Yet here is this wondrous way that we actually all have a magical substance that can save a life. What is the cost to you? Absurdly little. It will cost you about 45 minutes of your time and the tiniest bit of pain – all that in exchange for Allistaire staying alive. In my estimation, that is a worthy trade-off.
Contact Puget Sound Blood Center to learn more about donating blood and to set up a time to donate.
If you live outside of the Puget Sound area, take a few minutes and track down where you can donate blood in your area.
Here’s the update on Allistaire: She continues to do great and bring joy to everyone on the unit with her silly eyes, jovial spinning sessions, bike riding antics and unending sweetness. Her ANC (Absolute Neutrophil Count) is tauntingly bouncing around. Yesterday it was 174 and today it is 50. She needs to have an ANC of 200 to be ready to have her bone marrow test and be released from the hospital for a few days. As far as I know, the test is still scheduled for tomorrow afternoon.
Solveig’s fever seems to have passed, and while she continues to need a nap each day, her spirit is joyful. We are still trying to wait and see what will happen with Allistaire and make sure Solveig fully recovers before we decide exactly when I should head to Montana to visit.