He had signed up years prior for the Be the Match program which matches up DNA for a possible stem cell donation if he was ever called upon. This summer he got that very phone call. A two year old boy with Leukemia needed stem cells and he just happened to be this little boy’s match. “Of course I am going to do it.” He had told her, very confident in his decision. He had heard that it was a painful process but what was a little pain for someone else’s life, someone else’s child’s life…
She had never been more proud of him, respecting his decision with caution. The thought of him in pain wasn’t a settling thought but he was doing an amazing thing.
On Halloween, he began the first round of shots. They were meant to increase the amount of stem cells in his blood for the donation. He was to go in each day after to receive a shot in both arms. As the days went by, his level of uncomfortability rose. The pain in his lower back and chest weren’t unbearable but they were just enough to become irritating.
Another symptom of the shots was this occasional shock of pain throughout his entire body with each heartbeat that one night dropped him to his knees. She raced over to him on the floor, rubbing his back and offering him comfort. She already couldn’t wait until it was all over, her worrying becoming more stressful each day. He always tried to act tough as many men do, acting like the pain wasn’t as bad as it was. From the sight of him, groaning with pain and dropping to the floor, she knew it hurt much more than it seemed. He was past the point of muffling it. The nurse, on his final day of shots, was unsure what this pain could be since it was uncommon. The doctor on call said that he would be fine as long as she kept an eye on him.
The day finally came for the donation. They said to expect the process to take five hours. The nurse seemed a tad sketchy to her and was older, continuously smacking on her gum the entire time.
She was in no way a person who could be a doctor or a nurse. Blood and needles made her tremble, looking away as the woman began the process of sticking his first arm with the needle. The first attempt in his wrist failed. He made a face that quickly dissipated as he made eye contact with her, not wanting her to see him in pain. The second attempt failed as well. He cringed with unmistakable pain as his face became sheet white. She made eye contact once more, mouthing “I love you” and “You can do this.” His weak smile made her want to rip him free of the machine and just take him away from there. The third time finally worked, both of them sighing with relief.
The nurse asked her to help out. She was instructed to hand over empty viles and replace them in the holder with the ones filled with his blood. This made her tremble, her face flaming up as red as the blood she passed back and forth. After fifteen more minutes of set up and hooking up his other arm, the donation began.
She had brought her laptop so they could watch a movie on Netflix. They were interrupted many times to speak with doctors and the woman who ran the program in the area. She was sweet, speaking with them about life and his current situation. “Don’t leave when your done.” She proclaimed. “There’s going to be a party!” They were unsure about this kind of event occurring in the hospital especially after a donation like his. When the woman left, he asked her to itch the many scratches on his face that he was unable to get since he was hooked on both arms.
It came to the point where he needed to blow his nose. Smiling, she grabbed a tissue and held it over his nostrils. He blew into it, his face lighting up red. She looked at him and said, “And this is how You know I love you.” They laughed as she went to fetch him Apple Juice from the refreshment area. She had placed a bendy straw in it, holding it up to his lips so he could take a drink. He relaxed a bit as the process continued. She was glad that it was almost over.
The donation had only taken about 2 1/2 hours as she stood by waiting for the nurse to wrap up his arms where the needles had been. She was more relieved than he was when he had finally been detached from the machine. Hugging him, they walked into the refreshment room where a few gifts were waiting for him. “I didn’t know I got gifts.” He said sincerely to a different nurse that had been talking with them. He really hadn’t expected anything, hoping just to do his part and help out. He received flowers, a clock, a few caramels, some Tylenol, and a small Be The Match pin that he immediately placed on his backpack with pride.
She looked at him closely in the truck, remembering all the reasons she loved him. “You did something amazing today. I really am proud of you.” He smiled at her, kissing her gently on the lips as they drove to his place for a long awaited nap.