The Gift of Life
Most years, I do not take the time to reflect on how I will make the New Year a meaningful one. But this year, only one week in, I feel like that I have already made an impact in 5774.
About two years ago, I swabbed my cheek as part of a bone marrow drive for a young man I knew who was in need of marrow, but I wasn’t a match. The years passed and I had not thought about the drive, until my phone rang. It was someone I didn’t know. I did not think too much and it didn’t seem like a big deal – after all, I had donated blood before so this felt familiar. And then, about a year ago, I got the call that I was a match and I needed to go for confirmatory testing. Little did I know that they called about 10 other people and asked them to do the same. I still did not think too much of it. Things finally got “real” when I flew to Georgetown Hospital two weeks before the donation for a physical and to meet with the medical team.
From the minute I was picked up from the hotel to go the hospital in Georgetown, every person was thanking me. The appreciation and overall kindness from everyone at the hospital ranging from the medical tech, to the doctors and nurses to one of the hospital vice presidents made me feel special and like I was doing something out of the ordinary. It wasn’t until after my donation that I was able to reflect on the impact I had just made. While in the recovery room, Hayley, the nurse practitioner who was part of the donation, told me that my marrow was already on a plane so that the patient would receive it the following day. I was amazed at both how quick the turnaround was and how much the marrow was needed if they were already rushing it off. The biggest “aha” moment for me was when my sister and aunt posted the following on Facebook:
My heart is swelling with pride today…my brother, Scott Price, is a true hero. He just donated bone marrow to help give someone else the gift of life. He has donated blood and platelets for years and matched to donate marrow – twice! His selflessness is amazing and he is truly an inspiration!
So humbled…my nephew, Scott Price, has given the greatest gift once can give. The gift of life. Today he became a bone marrow donor. So, so proud of him. BTW, he has been chosen twice to donate. What are the odds?
These posts alone put everything in perspective, but the close to 300 “likes” and the comments posted both from people who I know and many who I don’t expressing their pride and how special it is to donate was extremely moving and really opened my eyes to the magnitude of the donation.
As I mentioned earlier, I have been a blood and platelet donor since the age of 17. I give blood and platelets as a way to honor my late father who was a multi-gallon donor before he passed away. When I lived in Memphis, I knew all of the staff at my Lifeblood location in Memphis by name, and now I know all of the staff my Carter BloodCare location in Dallas by name.
So why did I decide to give my bone marrow?
When I joined the bone marrow registry, I thought that there was no chance I would be a match. But when I was, it was a no brainer; of course I would do it. In fact, I would do it again.
I feel that as Jews, and more importantly as people, it is our job to make sure that everyone gets their chance to do whatever it is that they choose to do including, at the most basic level, living a full and healthy life. Because of this, and the way I was raised, I did not think twice when I got the call. Any time I am able to give back, I choose to do so. This was no exception.
Post donation, the three things I have heard the most are:
I have been on the registry for XXX number of years and have NEVER been called.
How do you know the patient?
I am so proud of you.
At first, I felt guilty that I was picked and so many others have been waiting for a call, some for close to 20 years. However, I remembered that it can be so hard to find a match, and very few of those who are in the system are asked to be donors, so chances are that I may never meet another donor. This made the donation even more special for me.
Most people were shocked, but found it noble that I did not know the recipient of the marrow. We, as Jews, learn about the 12th century scholar Maimonides and his tzedakah ladder. According to his eight-step ladder, the highest rung is make someone self-reliant, and the next rung is to give where neither the donor nor the recipient know each other’s identities. This gift of life is both. I do not know who received my marrow, nor do they know me. Through the use of my marrow, they will hopefully be self-reliant and live their life as they desire.
I appreciate that people are proud of me; however, I do not feel that I did anything out of the ordinary. I was not motivated by pride or just looking to do something special. As I mentioned earlier, it is my responsibility to give. Through this gift, I am receiving the honor and knowledge that I made a difference. To be honest, it was an honor to be a match and to be a donor. In a few weeks when my marrow has replenished, I can only hope I’ll have the honor to donate again.
Scott Price serves as the URJ’s Congregational Network Associate for the South.