When I was freshmen in college, my globe-trotting cousin finally made his way home to Chicago from his sabbatical abroad. When he returned to the states, he brought beautiful musical instruments from Ghana, a tank top and headwrap for me from Mali, and serious case of malaria. The disease incubated in his system for months upon months until finally it decided to rear its ugly head and when it did it was really, really bad.
I remember walking to Evanston Hospital from campus because it was so beautiful that morning. I didn't really know that much about malaria or what exactly it did to people besides make you sick and then eventually kill you. Once I finally got there, I sat in his room for a few hours while doctors came in and out to examine him. Some were actually assigned to his case, while others were so intrigued by his severe case of malaria that they just wanted to bother him like an animal at the zoo. When his dedicated doctor came to visit, he told me about how lucky my cousin was, how cases this far advanced are rarely seen in developed nations and that it took copious amounts of blood transfusions to save his life.
I have always donated blood when the school had a donation drive set up and I was happy to give what I apparently had plenty of. I never felt connected to my donation or really gave it a second though after getting my juice box and cookies. But the real life use of donated blood saved my cousins life. And that gave me a second and third thought.
I bring this up because, today, I finally did something that I have been meaning to do for years, I registered with the National Bone Marrow Registry. Since my cousin recovered from malaria, I faithfully donated blood whenever I could because I understood emotionally how it can save more than just a life, but a family. And while my cousin desperately needed those transfusions, there was blood to be had. Thousands of people go without matches for marrow and succumb to any number of problems that could have been delayed or resolved.
Today, I am proud that I made a decision that shows that I understand that marrow donation is painful and cumbersome and I am still willing to save the life of a stranger. I am proud that I have not only the clear and open mind, but also a clean bill of healthy, that allow me this amazing opportunity. And that is a big thing!