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Nov 20

What'sa marrow wit you?

Posted on Thursday, November 20, 2008 in Little known facts, Philosophy, Something to think about

There I was, sat in a ballroom as though in a dream… the characters there seemed to be perfectly placed in that moment just for me, an accidental crossing of paths that was just a bit too strange to be true.  My arm hurt.

Bowls sat on a white tablecloth, filled with Taytos and individually wrapped biscuits… no chocolate I noticed in dismay.  Chocolate would have been really nice with the bottle of Guinness I was babying.  Just in that very second that I noticed this serious lack of chocolate, a full packet of ‘Time out’ bars were emptied into the bowl right there at my elbow.  Weird.

The woman opposite me was staring squints at the questionnaire in front of her, and scratching her short scruffy mop of hair.  She was exactly the sort of character I’d like to think I am – she wore a baggy multi-coloured jumper and had a rugged, weathered sort of look, with a sparkle of earthly divilment in her eye.  Turns out she was a vet.  I wanted to be a vet too, once upon a time.

The form she was filling in was requesting all sorts of medical information pertaining to Bone Marrow Transplants.  She looked extremely concerned… self-doubt hovered in her features, and I remembered the feeling vividly because I’m on the donor list too, I had read the same questions and advice and it didn’t make for night-time reading.  Fear bubbled inside me as I filled in the particulars of my medical history, those horrible ‘What the fuck am I doing?!’ bubbles that need instant popping.  It felt far too easy just to walk away.

The woman looked up from her project and spoke her mind to a total stranger.  Me.

“What the fuck am I doing?” I smiled at her comical wide-eyed appeal.

“Scary, isn’t it?”  I said it, but I knew that ‘scary’ was the wrong word.  The right word escaped me.

“I’ve seen it performed…” she lowered her voice “… on a pig.” Her paling face wiped the smile from my own.  “It’s really… it’s quite gruesome, to put it mildly.”

“Eeep.”  I offered.  “Recovery isn’t too pleasant either I hear.  Life isn’t very sympathetic to time off for people like us… it’s a tough call.”

“The odds, though – the chances of ever being called are slim-to-none.  I’m just going to fill out this form and hope that I never get called!” 

My sentiments exactly, missus.

The man next to us turned around.  I’d seen him earlier with one sleeve rolled up and he had caught my attention, my inner curiosity as to what he did for a living.  It surprised me to find him sitting so close and undetected all of a sudden.

“My son has leukemia.” 

His words trapped us in limbo for a second – the knowledge that we’d been overheard, caught rapid, in flagrante delecto baring our petty fears – it tortured us.  The glance we shared spoke volumes.  It was a glance that said simply; “Shit.”

This gentleman then launched into a story – a horrific tale of torture and tolerance, the kind that no human being should ever have to suffer.  His kid, his young son had a 27% chance of survival without donated bone marrow.  With an exact match and a willing donor, his chance rose to 65%.  Being amongst five brothers, you’d think he was sorted but he wasn’t, his sister was the only match – her harvest operation to occur on the first day of examinations for her final year in college.  What a sacrifice.

This brave kid lost a huge chunk of his life living inside a sterile tent, begging his friends to stay away.  Hoping for what?  Life, a miracle?

Yet here we are, two selfish bitches whingeing about some bruising and three weeks of taking it easy?!?!

Slap!  Ouch.  Wake up.

I hear it now, the message sent from elsewhere.  I knew I was capable of toughness in respect to certain types of pain, but I worried that my fortitude might fall short of bone-invasion.  I needed to meet these people.  Oh… and the poor guy with leukemia?  He’s doing just fine now, apparently.  Most definitely out of the woods.

Do you know what I mean?  Have you ever linked with a total stranger and walked away feeling new, feeling like you were in a dream? 

I walked away with some free stuff the ballroom people gave me.  Free stuff and a new frame of mind.

Bring on the comments

  1. susan says:

    What’s a marrow, she says…I thought I was getting a recipe!

    I was a regular blood donor until five years ago, and couldn’t give back then when the truck came ’round because I’d had surgery that year. Unfortunately I’ve had surgery or been pregnant every year since, though two of those surgeries were minor things: wide awake, hand strapped to the table, ten minutes and being wheeled away again. But, I’m barred from giving blood until I can go a whole year without seeing the OR.

    My husband’s willing to donate and is healthy, very fit. But he’s from the North, and anyone living in the UK between certain years can never give blood here at all: so he’s off the list.

    I don’t think people realise that VERY few people volunteer to donate blood ever. Among those of us willing, a disheartening percentage CAN’T give for one reason or another.

    That leaves a huge dependence on a scarily tiny number of people.

    K8, I salute you, and the lady you met. God bless and good luck! And I hope you and yours never find yourself on the other side of those donations.

  2. I’ve given blood a couple of times, but the last time I did I felt so faint that I haven’t been brave enough since. I really should go back. I have to say that I haven’t even considered bone marrow donation. It hadn’t even crossed my mind as something you could do until very recently. That’s another reason I’ll have to be extra brave to go back… although I will do… sometime soon…

  3. Baino says:

    I thought for a moment you donated bone marrow. And that can’t be much worse than an epidural (I felt nothing possibly because I was in LABOUR) I’ve been a donor but my ‘type’ isn’t very popular
    A RH-. . . . worth it tho. Oh reminds me, I’m a total veg and have lost the link to Laughing Boy’s school. Can you email please. Do it folks. Give blood . .and you get a free orange juice and biscuit. Free is good right?

  4. Trish says:

    my Father had leukemia and he had 5 brothers and 1 sister – with only one match.
    His brother donated live stem cells for a transplant a much more pleasant procedure than a bone marrow transplant.

    What a great message.
    I was a match for bone marrow but I was pregnant at the time and I couldn’t or wasn’t allowed to help.
    A close friend did donate bone marrow and later they found out the child didn’t make it but still you have to give them the chance.

    I am glad the young guy survived.

  5. Trish says:

    sorry just to clarify the close friend was a different person …it’s 4.48am in Australia and I realise I didn’t make much sense

  6. K8 says:

    Susan; Ditto!! It’s a dicey game, this health lark. I felt guilty about waiting for tattoo clearance when there are preemies in maternity hospitals waiting for O – supplies. I wish more people would do it, it’s a nice buzz.

    Jenny; The whitey buzz is nasty, isn’t it? Hot baths are definitely out, I learned that the hard way! It’s just a case of managing it and knowing it’s worth it somehow.

    Baino; Epidurals are nasty!!! We only welcome them because of the alternative! They put you to sleep, though. That sounds inviting. If they give you Guinness after a blood donation, would they give you a keg after a marrow harvest? Hmmm… must ask.

    Trish; It’s really all about the A.R.K. idea you wrote about! The world needs random acts, whether they’re fruitful or not.

  7. Queenie says:

    Guinnes? I love this country…we only got tea!

    I lived in the UK for a long time so I can’t give blood here. I was
    a regular donor in the UK, and at the time of the BSE or ‘mad cow disease’ scare, I don’t think I ever visited McDonalds for one of their mmmmm yummmy eversohealthy burgers, I lived on lettuce, and alcohol!!…but I digress, I think we should all sign up for as many donor registers as possible, we can’t all be surgeons, but we can help, and so we should.

    Pity I can’t give blood, as I would like to, the ladies with the ‘time out’ bars used to fall over themselves to get the needle into me as I have a very rare blood group…

    “The Japanese believe that your blood type is an indicator of your personality, similar to the belief in the Signs of the Zodiac here in India. According to the superstition, people with type AB blood are cool, controlled, rational, sociable, popular, critical and indecisive. Your Rh factor does not play a role in determining your personality”.

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