Thirty years ago this month, my wife Ann and I noticed our two-year-old daughter Clare seemed very tired, even falling asleep as she ate her breakfast. When we took her to see Dr. Ajamie, he immediately sent us for more tests, and we were told Clare had Monosomy-7, a rare form of leukemia. Over the next few months, she received a number of blood transfusions as we tried numerous treatments; doctors worked for a cure, and we prayed for a miracle. Tragically, Clare died that April, but I have never stopped being thankful for the people, many from this community, who donated blood and platelets for Clare. They helped her stay alive for those months, and I am so grateful that I had those extra days with her.
Chef Gerry Prevost tells a similar story about his wife Crystal. While giving birth to their first daughter Aimee, Crystal started to hemorrhage and needed several transfusions to stay alive. Thankfully, she survived the birth, as did Aimee, and she was able to give birth to Danielle a few years later. The Prevost family is richer, happier, and more beautiful because people chose to donate blood to total strangers. Those of us who know and love the Prevosts owe those people a debt of gratitude.
I told these stories in Fuller Hall this week as we prepared for our next school blood drive. We have a long history of donating blood here. In fact, among all of the championship banners that line the walls of Alumni Gym, one stands out—the banner for being the most productive high school in generating blood donations in the state of Vermont—a title we have held for decades.
I pointed out that lots of people do lots of things for loved ones in our school. We have a dynamic Relay for Life Team—the Hilltopper Cancer Stoppers—that raises ever-increasing amounts of money for cancer research and helps organize the local Relay for Life on our track each June. We have several people who have grown their hair out for Locks of Love or Wigs for Kids, providing hair so that those suffering the effects of cancer treatments can maintain their normal appearance. We wear Chef Strong t-shirts and bracelets to show support for Chef Prevost. All of these things are good, and we should do these kinds of things whenever we have the chance.
I then explained why donating blood is a particularly meaningful act and why I donated as often as I could until I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. First, in donating blood, you give a part of you, which to me is more powerful than donating money, and you give something from within you, which is more meaningful to me than giving something external. Also, in giving this gift from inside, you are giving someone a chance to live, something more important to me than appearances, and because your body generates blood faster than it does hair, you can give this gift more than once within one year.
My final point was perhaps the most significant. Giving blood demands sacrifice. For some who have a real phobia of needles or blood, this sacrifice means overcoming deep and irrational fears. For some who don’t like the sensation of the needle or the chance of becoming light-headed, it demands a small but still significant act of putting others before your own comfort. I asked everyone eligible to give blood to do so, and I spoke especially to those struggling with fear or discomfort. I said that this kind of sacrifice—overcoming fears, taking risks, and choosing to help others instead of staying comfortable—is what makes for strong friendships, families, and communities. I asked them to muster the courage and donate and by doing so build the moral muscles that will enable them to make even bigger sacrifices later in life. I also told them that, if they did so, they might be helping a community member when they are most in need.
I think it is significant that we are having this blood drive in the same week that we celebrate Veterans Day, when we honor those who put their lives on the line for our freedom and safety—and sometimes for the freedom and safety of people around the world. Although the sacrifice of giving blood pales in comparison to what is sacrificed by our veterans, we can all be heroes in a smaller but still impactful way through giving blood.