A couple years ago, before beginning my journey into motherhood, I sat on a folding chair, waiting to donate blood at a local Red Cross blood drive.
I had made my appointment for a busy time of day, so I had ample time to observe my surroundings. It was then I engaged in reading each of the survivor stories mounted on the makeshift lab cubicles.
There were stories of car accident survivors, needing 12 units of blood to pull through. There were stories of children born with sickle cell anemia, needing regular blood transfusions to live an active life.
And there were stories of babies, barely out of diapers, needing the gift of blood to help combat childhood leukemia.
I was glad I had the chance to donate my O negative blood to help save lives. But I didn’t know it would one day be my own child on the receiving end of such a gift.
Just five days after her birthday, I took my daughter to her 12-month, well-child check up. I knew the doctor planned to draw blood for routine lab work, as well as to run a few additional tests on account of her small stature.
We’d always chalked it up to genetics to explain why my daughter is on the small size for her age. And I didn’t expect any of the tests to indicate a problem.
So, the next morning, when we were asked to return to the hospital for additional lab work, I was caught off guard, but not overly concerned. Honestly, I was more worried about my daughter missing another morning nap than I was about re-testing her blood levels.
But that afternoon, when I heard the voice of the pediatrician on the phone, and not that of a nurse on the other end, my heart dropped.
“Go to Wesley immediately…dangerously low hemoglobin levels…could lead to congestive heart failure….”
Since when is my child sick? She’s petite, that’s all. Nothing more, nothing less.
My husband came home after receiving my call. I was packing bags for the hospital. Off we went to Wichita, our jabbering, un-sickly child in her car seat behind us.
After realizing our insurance wouldn’t cover a stay at Wesley Medical Center, we drove a few winding blocks to Via Christi/St. Francis. We were ushered up to the pediatrics floor by a hospital employee who assured us the resident pediatrician we were about to see was a great doctor.
As we rode the stainless-steel elevator to the fifth floor, I kept remembering the revelation I had just a few hours before. God doesn’t stop at the sliding glass doors entering the hospital. No, he walks through with us, holding our hands.
That thought, and the prayers of our friends and family, kept us strong as the elevator door opened and we entered the floor where photographs of cancer patients adorned the walls.
And then began the nearly endless sound of our daughter’s anguished cries as she was poked and prodded.
How can you explain to a 1-year-old that the daily blood work was meant to help, not harm? That the thermometer wouldn’t hurt? That holding still for the blood pressure cuff the first time would be better than trying again and again to get an accurate reading?
In short, you can’t. So you brace yourself for the tears and hold on tight, praying that this time would be the last time.
Eventually results started rolling in. Miraculously, my daughter’s hemoglobin levels seemed to be the prominent marker, indicating that the rest of her body was functioning properly.
After two days of tests, the doctors started talking about giving my baby a blood transfusion. I was appalled at the thought. Images of an unsafe practice rolled in my mind, a horror flick of sorts. There was no way I wanted my daughter subjected to such an event.
But the doctor assured us that a blood transfusion is safe. Nothing like a movie portrayal. Every bag of blood is thoroughly inspected, and only safe blood is used.
We were told to expect our daughter to again have rosy cheeks, as well as more energy. That I couldn’t really imagine, as even when her hemoglobin levels were extremely low, my daughter could always be found walking or riding in the hallways with Mommy, Daddy or one of her many visitors.
Being as smart as she is, my daughter quickly learned that bad things only happened while she was in her room. So, as long as she was out in the hall getting wagon rides, or playing in the pediatric playroom, the “blue ladies” wouldn’t hurt her.
So was it possible for her to have more energy? Yikes!
We began the 31⁄2-hour transfusion process late in the morning. By the end, color had returned to my baby’s face, her hemoglobin levels rose four points, and she was ready not to be tied down.
We were released from the hospital the day after the transfusion. The doctors told us the low hemoglobin levels were most likely caused by a virus, but we could also be looking at some sort of exotic anemia. Only time, and regular blood work, will tell.
But, despite the unknowns, we are learning that God walks through every door with us, especially big, sliding glass doors with the lettering, “Emergency.”