Last Friday our local hospital had one of the busiest days ever. Teams of skilled surgeons performed 68 operations that ranged from minor to life-saving. I know this because I spent all day waiting on my best friend. As events unfolded over the next 24 hours, she was to be on the receiving end of one of those life-saving operations.
As a firefighter for the last quarter century, I’ve pulled countless patients from crushed cars, placed patients on backboards after they have fallen from ladders, and splinted limbs after a various number of mishaps. You could say that I’ve been there and done that, but Saturday morning I saw something I’d never seen before: life literally flowing back into a person.
By Friday afternoon my best friend had made it to her room. The operation took longer than expected. When she arrived in her room, I was there waiting.
The Wife had said she thought it was a good idea for me to stay with her and give her comfort. She needed someone to be her advocate during her time in the hospital. After all, it was my best friend and the operation was serious.
Waiting for her to awake, I wondered how many of the other 67 patients were still in the hospital. How many friends and family members were waiting for them to awake? Visiting hours ended at 8 and I was supposed to leave, but I didn’t.
Saturday morning the doctor came in and was gravely concerned at what she saw. My friend needed something more than just IV fluids. Her face was too white, her iron numbers too low, she would not heal and possibly not even survive without two units. She needed blood.
The first of the red bags arrived with an escort of not one but two nurses. They checked and re-checked lot numbers, dates, and blood types before switching out the IV fluids. Both nurses stayed in the room for the first 15 minutes. They said it was hospital protocols, and even though everything matched something still could go wrong.
The transfusion eventually took two hours, but wasn’t enough. Another red bag arrived with the same two nurses, same protocols, but with very different results.
This time the change was nothing short of a miracle. Until that day I’d seen the red liquid flow out of many patients, and in some taking life with it, but I’d never seen it flow back in.
As I sat and watched the color come back into her face, her eyes flickered open and started to sparkle again, color returned to her cheeks and lips. The nurses gave a knowing nod to each other and one left the room.
It seems my best friend was out of danger — all due to the generosity of two individuals who gave blood. Two people she will never know.
The day after the transfusion I took my best friend home. She is resting somewhat comfortably and healing. It will be a long recovery, but The Wife will be fine. I took three weeks off from work to take care of her; it’s the least that I can do.
After all, she is my best friend.
Recently I wrote an article stating that we all should give money, clothes, or our time to help others this holiday season, but even I can make a mistake.
We should all give something else. Rich or poor, blood is something we all have extra to give and it’s always in short supply. Go to your local blood bank and give the gift of life.
And for those two people who gave blood and saved The Wife’s life last week, thank you. Today is her birthday and what a celebration it will be.
[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, has been a firefighter for more than two decades and a columnist for The Citizen since 2001. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.]