I met a woman yesterday. Not in the usual hi-my-name-is kind of way. No Siree! There were no introductions. No attempts at pleasantries. Funny thing, the encounter blended seamlessly with the grey of my thoughts against the backdrop of the ICU waiting bay.
Worried faces and slumped shoulders were all I could see. I didn’t need to look at their faces to know what they were feeling. I was feeling it too. So when this woman approached – strike that; I didn’t actually see her approach. I was far too engrossed in Doctor Google’s ‘tried and tested’ answers. And then suddenly she was just standing there.
She looked like she carried the weight of the world on her shoulders. Her posture slightly bent, her left hand clutching her long dress. She asked how we were, but I think she was just being polite.
“There’s a child in here.” She gestured. “She needs blood. Would you mind donating?”
I have to say I was taken aback. It’s not everyday someone asks for your blood. I mean, it happens every day. We see the blood appeals on social media. Faceless appeals. Just names and blood groups.
Many times, the blood group isn’t ours. Many times the blood group is ours, but we’re out of town or we aren’t feeling well or we just don’t like needles and hospitals. Many times we read the message and promptly forget. Many times we hope that the situation isn’t that grave, or that someone else will respond.
I guess it’s easy enough to do that when all you have to do is put down your phone. God knows I’ve done it many, many times. But this time was different. This time, she was right there. Giving more details than would normally appear on plain text; The worry lines on her face. The strain in her voice.
“What blood group do you need?”
Apparently the blood group didn’t matter. The baby needed plasma. (I tried to research this, but I got lost in all the FFP, PRP and ABO jargon. So don’t take my word for it, ask a Doctor!)
“How old is the baby?”
“Seven days…Please save this life…” Her voice cracks.
On our way to the lab, I notice she’s walking rather slowly, her gait labored. Up and down the stairs we went.
“Are you the mother?”
“Yes. They just told me this evening that she needs blood.”
Oh dear God.
“Are you alone?”
“Yes. I have no one in Nairobi.”
I looked at her. I saw a mother in full regalia.
“She was perfectly healthy at birth. We were discharged from hospital and then we got home and she just collapsed. We were referred here by ambulance.”
All the way from Isiolo!
Half a liter of blood later, I learned that baby Faturi would need 4 more donors. My blood was only good for fifteen platelets. Her mother, in her postnatal state, still had more rounds to do; more strangers to approach; more pleas to make on her baby’s behalf.
I’m no stranger to heartbreak, but this was something else.
Except, it wasn’t.
This was no different from all the other people pleading every day for blood on social media. I know because today, I had to make an appeal of my very own. Same ICU; different patient; very specific blood group. O negative.
Belatedly, I realize I didn’t even take Mama Faturi’s number. I don’t even know if she got all the donors she needed.
But here’s what I do know: The situation is always THAT grave. Nobody launches a blood appeal to kill time. There’s always someone who needs blood. Sometimes it’s a faceless stranger. Sometimes it’s someone you love. Sometimes, it’s you.
Baby Faturi was born seven days ago. Hannington was perfectly healthy until a drunk driver run him over nine days ago.
Save a life, will you?
The above patients are in ICU at Mater Hospital Nairobi.
It really is rewarding to do good. If not at Mater, anywhere. Someone always, always, needs blood.