Hero Worship


A tear rolled down my cheek and splashed the greeting card in my hands as I read, Your blood donation made a real difference. I felt so much better and stronger. I am in Heaven now, but your gift bought me precious time with my family that I might not have had otherwise. Love, Stretch

The card was not for me, it was for my then-four-year-old yellow lab, Barkley. My big, loveable, lummox was a donor at the canine blood bank at Oakland Veterinary Referral Services in Bloomfield Hills. Canine blood donors? Really? Yes, really. Dogs – and cats for that matter – need blood transfusions after accidents, during cancer treatment, and for many of the same reasons humans need them. The blood is even separated by red and white cells and plasma.

The difference, it seems, is the process. A dog’s neck fur is shaved for easy access to the jugular vein, which is tapped during donation. Dogs have different blood types just like humans, but logistically, dog donors need to have the universal blood type because using the typing process with animals is too expensive and time-consuming.

Well, there is one other difference: the “thank you” card. Stretch was not the only grateful donation recipient to send out a card, via his humans, to Barkley. Fortunately, Stretch was one of just a few who did not survive post-transfusion, despite the best efforts of the veterinary staff wherever they received care. The tears always came to my eyes when reading those cards, though. I can remember hoping blood would be available should one of my “fur babies” need it. doogy

The truth is, there are still more humans in need of transfusions, or various blood products, and not nearly enough donors. Summer is a particularly slow time of year at the Red Cross Blood Bank. Not only are there fewer donors during the warm months, but the need is greater, because there are more people on the roads getting injured in accidents. This May, the Red Cross kicked off its “100 Days of Summer, 100 Days of Hope” campaign designed to inspire donations.
If you – or your niece, or son, or dad – needed blood, you would hope that it would be there. Now, it is highly doubtful that any recipient will send you a “thank you” card for your donation, what with privacy regulations. But, maybe I can do something about that, right now.

Just one month shy of our one-year wedding anniversary, my husband developed ulcers in his esophagus that caused him to lose over a third of his blood volume. It all happened very suddenly. It was terrifying; I nearly lost him. His doctors and nurses were wonderful, but the real heroes were the three strangers who took the time to donate blood.

Donors are paid in cookies and juice, but right now, if I had it to give, I would gladly hand each of those donors a million dollars for keeping the man I love alive. Because of them, my nephew still has his uncle. My dad has his kooky son-in-law. My fur-babies have their “daddy.” If you give blood, thank you. If you are considering it, I’m thanking you in advance. You never know when someone you love, with two legs or four, might just need you to be their hero.

girlLeslie Toldo has reported on healthcare and medical issues on Michigan TV sets for nearly 20 years. She grew up in Baton Rouge, LA and graduated from the University of Wyoming with a Communications degree. An avid runner, Leslie is also a member of the Board of Directors at the Humane Society of Genesee County. She lives in Linden with her husband and three big dogs: Daisy, Bear and Gus.



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