We had a blood drive at work recently. A co-worker is an avid donor and has donated blood, not just platelets or plasma, but whole blood, 126 times now! That’s 126 pints, 63 quarts, 15.75 gallons of his blood to help others! That’s incredible!
I’ve always asked why, but he just says he doesn’t do anything for anyone else and this is a way he can do his part, but it’s always seemed there was something more. The other day we talked about the blood drive and he shared the something more. Normally he’s a stoic, private guy, whose emotions swing little one way or the other, so it was a privilege to hear his story.
His mother died in the early 1950’s of cancer when he was just a toddler. He doesn’t remember her. Back then, blood drives and distribution were a little different. If you gave blood in someone’s name, it went straight to that person if the blood types matched. His mother was going to have surgery and critically needed blood beforehand. His dad gave blood and drove home to their humble house on the outskirts of a huge city just as the trash man arrived to pick up the weekly trash.
As was his custom each week, his dad took a cup of coffee out to the trash man. When he did, the trash man noticed the band aid on his arm and downcast look and asked what was wrong. The man poured out that he needed a huge blood donation before his wife’s surgery or she wouldn’t be able to have it, and he had no idea how he was going to arrange it. Sipping the cup of coffee, the trash man simply said, “Don’t worry about it. I’ll take care of it.” He said he would give blood after he got off of work. Quite thankful, he told the trash man where to go to donate blood and that he had to go back that afternoon about the same time to sign some paperwork.
My co-worker, who had been looking me eye to eye while relaying this story, looked away and continued.
When his dad got to the blood center later that afternoon, he was shocked to see virtually every trash truck from their large city lined up on the street outside the blood center. Man after man came walking out with a band aid on the inside of his arm from giving blood. Still looking away, my co-worker choked up. His eyes became misty, and he stammered while trying to quell the emotions deep within.
He said the trash man his dad talked to had lined up the entire sanitation department to give blood the same afternoon. His dad was deeply moved and found the trash man, who was helping direct the trucks in and out for the massive blood drive, and profusely thanked him for his kindness. The trash man smiled and simply said coffee can help make a lot of blood.
My co-worker’s words were now broken, his voice quivering as he continued and, quite frankly, he was uncomfortable and embarrassed to have swung over into such a deep, emotional part of himself. His mother had the surgery the next day and was able to live a little while longer because of it. Looking back at me he said, “To this day, I give blood to try to help someone like those trash guys helped my mom.”
A few days later at work my co-worker stepped out of the mobile blood bus with blue coban wrapped around the gauze on the inside of his elbow. Minutes later, red life flowed through a tube from my own arm and I just couldn’t stop thinking about a long line of trash trucks lined up 60 years ago outside a blood bank to help a woman they didn’t even know.
It’s amazing what kindness, and a weekly cup of coffee, can do.