In order to promote awareness of the upcoming 16th Annual Okeechobee Blood Roundup to be held at the Freshman Campus Auditorium on Nov. 20 and 21, we share stories of local Okeechobee folks who have received donations of blood and the difference it made in their lives.
My father turned 90 this year. A couple months ago, bloodwork revealed his hemoglobin had dropped to an unsafe level so he was given a blood transfusion. The one unit of donated blood was all he needed – the same cannot be said about his experience 50 years ago.
In March 1971, my father and 12 ice fishing buddies headed out by snowmobiles to Chamberlain Lake in the north of Maine. It was a 13-mile trip from the trailhead to the camp and while the men were on the trail the weather turned wicked with blizzard conditions. Somewhere along the trip, my father went off the trail and as he tugged on his snowmobile to get it unstuck, he felt a hot sensation in his abdomen. The ice fishing expedition arrived at the camp safely but my father felt poorly so he went straight to bed while the other men ate supper and played cards. Nobody realized that my father was bleeding internally from a perforated stomach caused by a long history of ulcers.
At four the next morning, my father awoke to a loud pounding noise in his head and when he tried to get up he passed out. As the other men tried to wake him, they were very worried because he was so pale. They planned to put my father on a snowmobile, drive him back out 13 miles to the trailhead, and then make the long road trip to the nearest hospital in Bangor. As dawn broke, the men went out to start their snowmobiles. At that moment, a seaplane came in low over the lake and the men were able to wave the plane down. The pilot took one look at my father and told him that he was going to fly him to Bangor.
After he arrived at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Bangor, my father received 17 units of blood over a ten day span with blood going in both wrists and both ankles. To make a long story short, my father required surgery to remove 80% of his stomach that had been destroyed by the many years of ulcers.
In order to replace the 17 units of blood my father received while at the hospital, he enlisted the help of friends and family to replace double the amount of blood and, within one year, he accomplished his goal. Unlike 1971, replacing blood through donation to defray costs is not done today. Because of the continuing shortage of blood, this type of family donating as credit for a person needing blood is not possible. The on-shelf supply of blood is so critical today that blood which is donated is processed for safety and transfused into someone within 72 hours. Sadly only 3.7 out of every 100 people in the US donate blood today.
Please thank my father for sharing his story by donating the gift of life – your blood – at the 16th Annual Okeechobee Blood Roundup on November 20 and 21, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Freshman Campus Auditorium. All blood donors will receive a commemorative Roundup T-shirt and the FIRST 200 donors will receive a goody bag donated by The Hoskins-Turco Law Office. Make an appointment on line at OneBlood.org or call 1-888-9-DONATE.