Bloodlines

A few weeks ago, a middle aged man was admitted to our medical service and was found to have a hemoglobin of 3 g/dL (normal 12-15 g/dL), white blood cell count of 4,000 mm/³ (normal 4,500- 12,000 mm/³) and platelets of 5 (normal 150,000-450,000).  Needing to act quickly, we typed the patient’s blood for transfusion (O Positive) then queried our lab to find the nearest bag of platelets.  The result was Nairobi, four hours away, and to make matters worse, our hospital was fresh out of O positive blood.  Crap. 

We moved to plan C and asked the family to donate blood, hoping for a match, but not one member was.  So, now what?  It then occurred to me that I was O positive, so I proceeded to the lab to provide the blood. 

After being on the business end of that needle that I remembered being much smaller the last time I donated blood, I had a few minutes to think about the current situation. I thought about the importance of blood, and how it is a vehicle to take oxygen to the far reaches of our bodies so our cells can carry on countless molecular processes without us giving it a moment’s thought.  Wow, what an amazing Designer we must have.  I wrestled with the reality of the finite nature of my blood, only capable of being a literal and proverbial Band-Aid for this man.  I then reflected on the One who not only gave His blood, but His entire life for all regardless of tribe, nation or tongue.  My feeble attempt at giving of myself seemed incredibly minuscule.

Interestingly enough, this patient was not from Kenya.  He was from a neighboring country that does not have a good working relationship with Kenya.  As a non-Kenyan with only a short history here, it was easy for me to view this person as an image bearer and not an enemy.  For others, though, perhaps this was more difficult – he was one of “them.”   In a day and age where “us versus them” leavens every aspect of our lives from politics to sports to bathrooms to peanut butter (crunchy definitely), it can become easy to dehumanize “them.”  It challenged me to think about my definition of “them.” Would I have been so eager to give my blood to someone who I defined as “them?”  Thankfully, there was One who gave His blood for me when I was still an enemy.   

Bag filled, needle out and back to the list I went: internal medicine, pediatrics, neighboring and trying to love because we have been loved first.

Until next time...