It was over two decades ago and the mind has a way of playing tricks as time passes. The details of the day are foggy, but the event is not.
The short, slightly stout, bespectacled gentleman and I had run out of pleasantries to exchange, brought together as we were by my soon-to-be-father-in-law, and faced with my own recalcitrance to converse with another human being beyond the basic courtesies. It was at that point that he drifted off into a soliloquy about the importance of blood and its short supply in the world, resulting in countless lives being lost. He asked me to donate blood when I could, and on that note, we exchanged phone numbers with him promising to let me know the next time a need for blood arose and my promising to volunteer in such an event. I gave no further thought to the conversation, congratulated myself on having successfully extricated myself from the experience, and went on with my life.
Until that day when a text popped up on my Nokia phone asking me to make good my promise (which of course, I honoured).
More than twenty years on, I completed my umpteenth blood donation this morning. I stopped keeping track many years ago. On the day it stopped being the loss of bodily fluid for one, but the difference between life and death for another in my eyes.
My uncle lay writhing in pain, swathed in bandages, and on the verge of yet another surgery. An amputation of (what started off with) his foot had led from one complication to another, and after months in hospital, the hospital had run out of blood to perform yet another urgent operation. Urgent phone calls were made to friends and acquaintances, to blood banks and hospitals to find more donors. I was amazed as people kept coming forth — not only that day, but for the several months that followed when he would be operated upon many, many more times. None sought any reward or compensation, except to be informed later of the patient’s well-being.
It was then that I resolved that I would start paying it forward in the same way. I registered myself as a donor with a blood bank, saved the short, slightly stout, bespectacled gentleman’s phone number, and tried to ensure that I donated blood whenever I could. Over the years I have been witness to screams of anguish and tears of joy, I have consoled grieving relatives and counselled scared friends. I have visited hospitals and morgues, blood banks and churches, and donated blood in the sole hope that I would be able to give another person hope, if not another chance at life. For is that not what my dear uncle (and I) had received?
My uncle passed away recently, having lived well into his eighties, but every donation I make is my small way of giving thanks to every person who came forward to help him over many years.
And what of Mr Kurien, the gentleman who first introduced me to the concept? He remains committed as ever to the cause — organizing blood donation camps and nowadays whatsapp groups, making calls to seek help, even selling all his belongings to support the cause that he has so passionately espoused for several decades now — to ensure that every possible drop of blood that can be donated, is.
Not all of us can be as passionate or committed as him. But in a world that desperately needs more goodness, we can try to play a small part.