I am thrilled to have my new friend, Bethy, offer to write a guest blog. I met Bethy through networking via LinkedIn. We are both members of the Donate Life group in LinkedIn.
Bethy Annsa is a future paramedic dedicated to public service, science education (especially with regard to public health), and donating life. She is the Treasurer on the board of the Northwest Mothers Milk Bank, which is working to open a human milk bank to serve the NW region of the United States. When she is not studying to become a paramedic or volunteering with the milk bank, she enjoys a lively day job in higher education.
Why I Keep Nagging You (And You, And You, And You…)
I can be a bit of a pain, I freely admit that. If I’m not exhorting my coworkers to all donate blood together, I’m urging people to make financial donations to help open our local mothers milk bank. If I’m not sending people links to a commercial about bone marrow donation, I’m chattering about a TV show or movie that portrayed organ donation in a positive light, and how wonderful that is. I get the sense that people around me wonder sometimes: Why? What is this strange fascination with giving away body parts? The answer goes back pretty far into my childhood. Though I can’t remember it all, I’d bet it happened in a fashion somewhat similar to what is going on with my own children currently.
A few days ago I was combing the tangled mess of my three-year-old daughter’s hair when I muttered in frustration “I am SO tempted to cut this all off.” My daughter gaily replied “Cut off my hairs, Mama!” “We can go today” I answered. “Yes, let’s go!” she exclaimed. After her excitement and questions about cutting hair had died down a bit, I asked her a question: “Would you like to give your hair to sick children?” I explained to her about Locks Of Love, we went to their website and saw pictures of children with alopecia or cancer, both before and after receiving a hairpiece. My little girl was thrilled at the idea. That evening we went to the salon, and the next day she proudly held up the envelope containing her gorgeous, curly ponytail while I took her picture. She handed it to the postal worker to weigh and stamp, saying “Bye, hair! Have fun with the boys and girls with no hair!” Full of pride in her selflessness, and joyful at the milestone she’d achieved, I realized that this is how it starts.
Looking back at my childhood, I can remember many instances where my parents led by example, giving of their time, their talents, and their bodies. When my father was a 911 dispatcher, he used to visit my school and help the kids understand when and why to call 911. When my sister brought home a sick kitten, my mother carried it around everywhere with her in a basket, feeding it every couple of hours and comforting it while it suffered epileptic seizures. Both parents told me what the D on their driver’s licenses meant. They even told me that my blood type was rare, and that as soon as I was old enough, it was my responsibility to donate as often as I could, so that people of my type would have the blood they needed if they were injured or sick.
What I didn’t realize at the time was how unique this upbringing was. It wasn’t until I reached adulthood that I realized that my passion for giving blood and my pride in being a registered organ donor weren’t necessarily common. And as much as I supported those causes, it has only been in the past few years that I’ve learned much about bone marrow donation and breastmilk donation. Equipped with this knowledge, I find myself in a position to promote and advocate for these causes.
Which brings me back to the question of why. Why am I so interested in this stuff?
First, it’s because I truly believe that giving of myself is my duty. I was taught that there is nothing different between me and an individual suffering from disease or injury, except luck. I’ve been lucky enough to have a healthy body, and it just seems selfish not to share the wealth.
Second, I’m not made of money. I can’t give as much as I’d like to any cause I believe in, but I do have this healthy body that I can use to make a difference.
Third, these causes bring out the best in me, in so many ways. My desire to donate bone marrow is pushing me onward in my struggle to reach a healthy weight, because there is a maximum weight for eligibility as a donor. My desire to donate blood encourages me to eat iron-rich foods and take my vitamins, so I’ll have a high enough hemoglobin number to donate. My desire to donate my organs has made me consider my end of life plans, discuss my wishes with my family, and given me peace about the fact of my mortality.
And finally, I am interested in large part because of how little these issues are on people’s radars. When people aren’t thinking about any of this, and then I bring it up and spur them to action, that is a small victory for me. These victories make me yearn for even more, and before I know it, I’m glibly reminding friends that they won’t be using their organs after they pass away, or tempting my family with descriptions of the yummy cookies I ate after giving blood.
Pushing them toward giving, as always.