It's In You To Give

I want to talk about what happened last week and the profound impact it's had on me, and how I feel about charity and giving.

A few months ago a Facebook friend of ours had to have surgery. Brain surgery. Real dangerous stuff. He's the real estate agent who drove us around for two days back in 2009 and showed us almost 30 homes and ultimately helped us buy the house we have lived in for the past 5 years. He even did the final walk through so my wife and I wouldn't have to fly in from Ottawa to do it. We've stayed in touch on Facebook since then and followed the changes in his life, as he and his wife had their first child and then proudly announced earlier this year that another one was on the way.

During his surgery he almost died. He started to bleed and wouldn't stop. There was something like a 1% chance of this happening and it did. It took blood donations from 60 people to save his life. They pumped 12 litres of blood into him to keep him alive. 12 litres. His body only holds 4. He came out of surgery without a single drop of the blood he went in with - 3 times over.

Healing and grateful to be alive he decided to give a little back and hold a blood drive down at the local Canadian Blood Services location in Waterloo and he asked all his friends on Facebook if they would consider donating.

I had low blood iron for the longest time and then was on some pretty fun medications after that and had never donated before. Being med free and with a healthy hemoglobin level right now the only thing stopping me was a healthy fear of needles and queasiness at the sight of blood, which seemed like really lame-ass excuses. So I booked my first ever appointment to donate blood for Tuesday of last week.

Then, in what can only be described as a karmic twist of the Universe, the Monday before my blood donation appointment Jodi and I found out that Avery does not weigh enough to bank her own blood before her surgery. You see, she has severe scoliosis and needs to have spinal surgery in the new year to have metal rods cemented and screwed into her spine to keep it straight. It's a 10 hour surgery and if not everything goes as planned she'll need blood. Better it's her own than someone else's too. Only now that was not possible.

Jodi cannot donate because of some funky rule that prohibits donations from people who lived in France for more than 3 months during certain years. Seeing as she lived there for a year during one of those years she's ineligible (something about mad cow disease and not being able to test for it until after you're dead). I will be tested for compatibility (blood type, antibodies, etc...) and if I'm a match I will provide a directed donation to have on hand for Avery's surgery. I'll only be able to donate a couple litres though. A worst case scenario would see her needing more than what I can offer.

That means there'll be blood on hand from the blood bank. I really hope none of it will be needed, but it's awfully reassuring that it's there if it is in fact needed.

So on Tuesday I went in and donated blood for the first time. It was almost completely painless, everyone was very supportive, and I got to have juice and cookies afterwards. My friend was even there talking with all the people donating and thanking them. If I'm being completely honest, I felt really good about it. The best way I can describe it was that I felt like I was making an immediate and profound impact on somebody's life. I went home afterwards proudly sporting my "First Time Donor" pin and feeling great (though getting out of bed the next morning was a challenge. I was really tired!)

I've been telling people this story ever since and am encouraging everyone to go find out if they are able to give blood, and if they are to please donate. It makes a difference. It saved my friend's life and could very well save Avery's.

~ Dad

MRI done

Avery had her MRI (I have said 'we had an MRI' a few times, but really, she was in alone) today.  We were out the door by 8:15 for our 9:15 scheduled appointment in Hamilton. While in the Tim Hortons drive thru on our way there, I suddenly became concerned that maybe we needed to be there half an hour early for paperwork, but luckily my GPS had up set to arrive at 9:00, so I figured that split the difference.

We arrived around 9 and parked in the blue section, right beside the elevator - such luck! Then we went to get the elevator to go up one level... and waited. Seriously, we waited maybe 10 minutes. But there are no stairs in the blue level and never having been to blue, I was not sure on a Sunday at 9 am I could get from yellow to blue... so we waited. Finally in the elevator and up one floor to 1 where we needed to buzzed in to the MRI section. On arrival, Tammy the MRI receptionist informed us that they had an emergency patient and were running fairly behind schedule, like at least 2 hours, and there was word that another emergency patient was coming down, so maybe 3 hours. We decided to wander the hospital, so now I know that McMaster is a box and you can in fact get all the way round, even on Sunday morning at 9 am. (and no paperwork needed. It seems the computers actually transmit information here)

After a half hour wander, we came back to see where things were at and were told we still had a couple of hours, but for certain 1 hour as both machines were in use, so we went to have breakfast at the Maple Leaf/Tally Ho Pancake house - the place where Andrew and I had breakfast the day we decided to date - 19 years ago, almost exactly (October 20, 1994). I paid for our meal when I ordered in case we got a call to come back, so we just relaxed a bit - Avery was happy to eat peanut butter on her toast, a luxury she cannot have at home with her anaphylactic brother around. This pancake house is right beside Ronald McDonald House, and I am pretty sure the family that sat beside us was staying there. We headed back to the hospital, got the same parking spot! and a much quicker elevator ride back to the MRI area, Avery was given a lovely cotton hospital gown and before she could sit down, she was called back to  her scan.

I made Avery wear yoga pants and a t-shirt and change her bra so she had no hooks because I recalled reading that she may have been able to wear her own clothes. Turns out I was mis-informed because recent event have noted that many yoga pants contain silver threads - and they are not magnetic, but they are conductive and can apparently burn you. So no yoga pants. Cotton panties and a hospital gown to be safe.  She also got to watch a movie while in there - how cool is that?

So 45 minutes, maybe an hour passed and out came a very flushed and very loopy Avery. She said she fell over and hit her head in the change room trying to put her sock on. After about 5 minutes I got up to check on her as she didn't have that much clothing to put back on. She was loopy. I had an MRI a couple of years ago, and I too was loopy, so at least I got it, but she was not pleased with the loopy feeling.

We left the hospital and went to a mall (her choice - she said she didn't want to go home yet) so I took her to Limeridge and we did a quick tour of the mall. I mentioned she was loopy? We went in to Gymboree (I really wanted the tie shirt for the Dude, but alas, none in his size) but while I was looking, she looked at the Eric Carle section, and they had the book Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and she lost it! She came over ranting about how it makes no sense! No sense at all! Then brought me over to explain - you see the first page reads "Brown Bear, Brown Bear what do you see? I see a red bird looking at me." the next page reads "Red Bird, Red Bird, what do you see" and here is where she lost it - the Red Bird sees a yellow duck! But the Brown Bear said the Red Bird was looking at him! So how can the Red Bird see something other than a Brown Bear?!? I really wish I had of recorded it. (but maybe that makes me a less than nice mother). This really bothered her, I mean even after we left the store, she continued to rant about it.

So really - the MRI was uneventful, as an MRI should be. I stopped by x-ray to see if I could pick up her x-rays for the Sick Kids appointment, but they were not there. So I asked to have the MRI put on a disk and we can take it too. And on the up side, the x-ray section was open, so theoretically, I can go pick the disks up on a Sunday morning between now and December 2.