A personal account from Rabbi Ilana Garber of her experience as a blood recipient.
Rabbi Garber lives in West Hartford, Connecticut. Since her first blood transfusion she has received four more. Rabbi Garber is now done with treatment and working on healing.
I put it off long enough. The counts kept dropping…then picking up a bit…then dropping…then picking up a bit…then dropping….then —-
Enough. Time to do something about it. To take charge of my healing. To face what scares me with a #PMA (positive mental attitude). To see it as the most natural, non-chemical “drug” I’d been offered in a while.
A blood transfusion.
As of August 11, 2015 someone else’s blood flows through my veins. That’s incredible. And crazy. And incredible.
Let’s name my blood donor: Donna Donor, just for ease.
Who is she? What possessed her to give this gift of life? Was it a drive in honor of a friend? Was it a national tragedy? Does she give regularly (as I know many of my friends do) just because she can?
Did she ever think about the person who might receive the blood? Maybe, though obviously she has no idea where the blood is going. But because healthy people do not receive blood, she had to expect she was giving to someone in need.
Anonymously. No way to thank. No way to reciprocate. Of course, I plan to pay it forward.
It is the 2nd highest form of giving, according to Maimonides on his ladder of tzedakah (righteous giving), right after giving someone a loan or helping them in business so they become self-sufficient. I actually think in my case we might combine the top two levels of the ladder: the anonymity of the gift AND the ability that this gift of blood will have for me to eventually become self-sufficient so that I can produce red blood cells again on my own.
Amazing. Incredible. Life-saving. Life-enforcing. They say I should feel like a million bucks after the blood transfusion. So far I feel more like $100,000 – but I’ll take it and I hope I keep improving with each day as I internalize this new blood.
I just can’t help but wonder who she is, what personal story is now entwined with mine, what intention she brought to the donation, and how this might change me. OK, perhaps I’m being a bit dramatic (surprised?), but what if we met on the street? What if the blood came with a detector so that if we were to meet, I would know, or she would know, and we might look each other in the eyes, I might thank her, she might proudly acknowledge that her blood is working? What if we are already acquaintances? What if we don’t like each other? What if we’re already friends?
All of these “what if’s” simply to remind me that I will never know exactly where this life-saving blood came from. There’s the potential that every person, every soul out there, could be Donna Donor.
I do not yet know how I will “pay it forward” though I’m working on some ideas. Today I am focusing my intention toward strangers, friends, family, and neighbors. To all, I offer deep gratitude, profound appreciation, and the utmost respect.
Rabbi Ilana C. Garber has served the community of Beth El Temple, West Hartford, CT, since August 2005. She is a member of Rabbis Without Borders. Locally she serves on the board of Mikveh Bess Israel. She lives in West Hartford with her husband and 2 sons. In April 2015, she was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and underwent treatment at Hartford Hospital.