There was a day in 1997, that changed my outlook on what I have and the opportunities I have been given. It started one Saturday when I was going to go into work and a good friend of mine asked me to stop into the Nissan dealership two doors down from the one I worked in, to pick up a part for his son's mini-truck. About mid-day I stopped by their parts department to check the availability of the part. While the parts counterman went into the back to make sure they had the part, I noticed a flyer on the counter which separated parts and the cashier.
It was wrinkled as if it had gone through a lot of hands before landing there. It had a picture of a young boy on the left and an impassioned plea on the right. They were looking for blood donors for this seven year-old boy, who could make themselves available for giving blood to save him from a rare and very deadly type of leukemia. It went on to say that they needed someone with O+ blood, and that the person had to be between the ages of 12 and 49. Further, this person would need to be free of any diseases naturally, and could meet some more exacting criteria to be determined at Children's Hospital of Orange County.
I thought to myself, "That describes me perfectly!". When the parts came to the front, I took the invoice to the cashier's window and paid it. I asked if I could keep that flyer. She said, "Yes, if you want to. I don't know where it came from. Maybe another customer left it there." I took the flyer, and called the number it gave to set up an appointment for Monday morning.
When I got to the department which takes and gives blood, I was given a stack of papers to fill out on personal history. This was about 20 or so pages. They wanted to know things I felt were kind of odd, but didn't mind answering. Questions such as "Have you been to a third world country in the last 13 years?" And more expected questions such as, "Have you had sex for money in the last 13 years?". It seemed endless but necessary. After I was finished, the woman who gave me the survey, came over and took three test tubes of blood from my arm. While she did that, I noticed two large chairs on the far side of the room. They were facing me, and looked somewhat like dentist's chairs. There was a lot of strange looking apparatus between the two chairs with tubes, wires and meters all intertwined to make a confusing scene. As the woman took my blood, she explained that when this child needs transfusions, he needs them within an hour, and no notice of when he might have to have them. She said that the blood would go directly from the donor's arm into the child's arm. That explained the need to be absolutely sure of the donor's background.
I left that day wondering if they'd find someone whose blood was a perfect match. This was a lot like a match they might need for an organ donor. There was a certain reading they were looking for in the blood which would guarantee that it was not rejected by the child's system. I believe it was on Wednesday morning that I heard from the hospital again. They wanted me to come down to talk to them. When I got there, the woman who runs that department told me that I was one of only two people in all of their data banks of donors, who was a perfect match for the child. The certain quality they looked for to guarantee a match, she said, was rare in adults. She said it is almost exclusively found in children, but that my blood showed perfect for it.
I joked with her that this fact explained why some people say I never have grown up. She said I needed to be available 24/7 within one hour of the call. I said I would make sure I could be available. She further informed me that unless it was absolutely necessary, I shouldn't take any type of medications with the exception of a small dose of Tylenol if I needed it. The reason for that she explained, is that when blood is taken from one person and fed directly into another person, whatever drugs and properties the donor blood have, will be transferred to the patient.
When I left there that day, I was thinking what a stroke of luck it had been for me to see that flyer on the parts counter that day. I was also thinking that since the child was under the care of one of the best children's hospitals in the world, he would somehow survive. I called the special number given to me, about every other day for the first week, asking if they needed me to come down. I feared that while I was at work, their phone call might not get through, since phone systems at dealerships, and especially where I worked, were notorious for losing calls. I asked the receptionist at our main line in the showroom floor area to make sure I was contacted should I get a call from anyone, and she left a note for the afternoon receptionist to do the same thing. I asked my friends and family to please limit any calls until further notice, unless it was a dire emergency so there would be no false alarms.
Two weeks to the day from when I first went to C.H.O.C.'s hospital to be tested for donor match, I called the special number. A woman answered and said that I needed to call another number, which she recited to me. When I called that number, another woman answered. I told her I was calling to see if I might be needed to give blood for the boy. In a voice that came across as uncaring, she said, "No, you won't need to check anymore. He passed away three days ago." I was having a hard time swallowing, but choked out, "All right then. Thank you". I placed the phone receiver back in its place and just sat there.
I was calling from the quiet of my service manager's office, and could hear her coming back towards me. So I stood and left before I needed to explain the tears. It turned out that the woman I spoke with on the phone for the last time was in charge of the drive for blood for this "fun-loving boy who loved baseball". It was not an uncaring voice I had heard from her that day, it was the voice of someone with a broken heart trying their best to remain strong enough to handle whatever needed to be handled in the aftermath of what had to have been an extremely emotionally draining job.
I went home early that day. When I got there, I grabbed my own son who was about five years-old. I held him tightly to remind me that he was still there, even though someone, somewhere in Orange County, California, was wishing they could hold their son again and once more feel his heartbeat next to them. To hear his childish laughter, and see his smiling eyes. That is when I realized that through all of my everyday life, the pettiness of whatever I might complain about is forever dwarfed by a sun that shines brightly in the middle of night or on a gloomy day. That sunshine is made of the gifts that I have been given, which I used to take for granted.
If I ever need to be reminded of those gifts, I think about an engraving on some bricks which line the sidewalk outside of one of the entrances to Children's Hospital of Orange County. These bricks contain words of praise to doctors and nurses who put their best work down for the children whose lives are in their hands within the walls of that hospital. Somewhere among the hundreds of bricks in the walkway, there are four bricks which have a poem written on them telling everyone who reads it that their child is in a good place. It says,
Smiling eyes are closed now,
busy hands are still.
Our angel's gone to heaven,
sleeping at God's will".