December 30, 2015

When Being O Negative is a Positive

Filling out paperwork before donating blood (photo by Ruth Boyd)

The phone rang mid-nap recently and my son answered.  By the time I came to and stumbled out of my bedroom, the call was over and he told me, "Someone needs blood."

My heart sank.  If I get a call about someone needing blood, it usually means something tragic has happened.  I called the local expat doctor and she said I could give blood the next day to help a young European woman who had lost several liters of blood during an operation.

'Why would they call you?' you may ask.  I have what is considered a rare blood type in these parts: O negative.  Hardly anyone living in our part of Asia has O negative blood.  And here's the thing about O negative - you can only receive your blood type.  However, my blood type is known as the "universal donor" because anyone can receive O negative.  Aren't we special?

A few times during our years in Indonesia I have been called on to give blood, and I have been happy to do it.  I imagine what it would be like if I needed blood, and how awful not to find a donor, so I am more than willing to give if there's a need.

Once we were on vacation in Bali and I read in the paper that there was a dire need for O negative, so I called the Red Cross and they sent a mobile unit to our hotel to collect my blood. Because that's what you do on vacation, right? I read somewhere that the number one cause of injury and death for westerners in Indonesia is motorcycle accidents in Bali, so they always are looking for O negative.

Another time I donated was when we were living in Kalimantan, and a young Indonesian living in a nearby town needed blood.  I donated, but there was so much paperwork and logistics to work out in how to get the blood to her that, sadly, she passed away before she got it.

This most recent blood need a few weeks ago was an opportunity for me to discover who all in our small expat community has O negative, and, surprisingly, there are about six of us. 

Three of us gave one morning at a local hospital, with our local expat doctor organizing us. I look like I'm enjoying a day at the spa in the photo below, but I was actually trying hard not to think about the needle, and also ignoring the wasp that was buzzing around my head.
One pint of O negative coming up! (Photo by Ruth Boyd)
 The best part of this particular blood donation was that about a week later, I met the lady who received our blood.  She was at the Christmas Eve service we attended, and she looked great.  She hugged me and thanked me for donating, and it was just so cool to have been part of a happy outcome.



Chad and Andi Irwin said...

Great story! Good to know that if you needed blood, there are so many other missionaries to help you out! One time here there was a bus accident and there was a foreigner who needed A+ blood, which is rare here. My parents were visiting at the time, and my mom and I both have A+. We got the call for the need and I grabbed mom and headed out the door (without asking her if she was willing!). They needed it fast and long story mom passed out in the process! Good memories! She still loves me....I think!

Mary said...

What a great story!! Guess what? Your Auntie M is O neg too so the Red Cross here LOVES me!! A couple at our church organizes blood drives excuses for me! Ha ha!! I hate needles too BUT I always think....what if that were someone I knew? How can I deny someone the gift of life? So cool that you got to meet the recipient!