When someone donates blood, it’s not just about the recipients it’s about his or her family, neighbors, friends, co-workers, and all those people with whom that individual has and ever will touch in a positive way.
Last summer, the Rhode Island Blood Center’s Summer of Inspiration program focused on 15 different blood recipients, individuals who were given the gift of life by blood donors, and each of whom has had a considerable impact on the communities around them.
In some cases it’s about lives extended, and others about lives saved. Always it has been about inspiration, individuals who have confronted some extremely serious conditions, facing them with determination and courage.
In the year since the start of our Summer of Inspiration, we have seen incredible extremes. One of our recipients has acted in two plays and is about to direct a production; another participated in a charity stair climb up more than 30 flights in one of Providence’s tallest buildings. And two passed away, leaving behind a gift of memories that wouldn’t have been possible without blood donors.
We came to know Michael Fallgren a couple of years ago, A leukemia survivor, Michael had been diagnosed a decade earlier and told he wouldn’t see another Christmas. He saw 11 Christmases, receiving blood transfusions periodically (hundreds of units of various blood products) as he lived life to its fullest.
When we first met Michael he had agreed to have a blood drive dedicated in his honor. Not only did he lend his name and story, but he and his wife Angela actively helped recruit blood donors, and Michael stayed throughout the day to greet everyone.
A gentle man, he had worked in the marine industries for years. Because of blood donors, Michael was able to walk two daughters down the aisles, something no one ever anticipated when he was first diagnosed.
Still suffering from the disease, Michael received a stem cell transplant several month ago, only to suffer three serious infections that recently took his life.
To call Lorraine Garvey spunky would be an understatement. LG, as she preferred to be called, valued laughter and subscribed to a large dose of positive thinking. The mother of two, she was a woman who operated in the fast lane, starting the American division of two German jewelry companies, working for architects, and in-between in the fast paced world of real estate.
She always worked, and when she was stricken with a condition that sapped her strength, she found it difficult. “I’ve never not worked,” she said. “This is the kicker for me. You can’t exercise. I can’t do anything. Very stressful.”
But what she never lost was her sense of humor and positive thinking, an inspiration to all of those around her. LG needed transfusions, specific HLA matches, and he son-in-law Kevin, remarkably was a match. So every couple of weeks they’d come to the Blood Center’s Providence facility-date night she called it. LG fought as long as her body would let her, finally passing away several months ago.
Keith Bloomer, who lives in Exeter with his wife Lynn and eight-year-old daughter, Katie, is in the business of building memories. He’s a double lung transplant, who, during his recovery from surgery had bleeding ulcers and gangrene, which took the tips of most of his fingers and toes.
Keith, has become a volunteer for the Blood Center, the Greenwich Odeum (a theater in the midst of a revival in East Greenwich), organ donor groups and more. This spring he participated in a climb of a downtown Providence building, some 30 stories. As he said, he didn’t finish first-but he finished! He takes long walks with Katie, and brings his laughter, and positive outlook to all those with whom he comes in contact.
Keith works at blood drives, or appears for the Blood Center as a speaker at schools and other groups, telling his compelling story and how blood donors are helping him make memories.
Mention Community Theater to Arthur Robillard and his face lights up, there’s a twinkle in his eye and the voice of a thespian. If it weren’t for dozens of blood donors some 24 years ago, Arthur, father of two, would not have survived the horrific accident. He was working with a Providence Water Supply Board crew, when a car crashed into a group of workers, killing once and severely injuring several others, including Arthur, who lost a leg.
Today, Arthur and his wife live in Foster, where he’s an active member of the Swamp Meadow Community Theater. This past year, he’s performed in “Get Married,” a holiday production, and “Wooster and Jeeves.” Soon he will direct “Canterbury Tales.”
And then there’s Art Berlutti, on the air at WADK in Newport; Candace Callori, shaping the lives of teenagers as a vice principal of Toll Gate High School; Al Whitney and Larry Frederick, promoting blood and platelet donation nationally; Joe Daigle, newly married, and working at Hasbro Children’s Hospital; Lynda Lacave, volunteering at Blood Center events; Molly Harrington, a grandmother of five, Kim Woodruff, who continues to help residents of Bannister House in Providence’s South side; Barbara Joyce, who has been the key mover behind the state’s colon cancer group; and the kids, Daniel, 10, and Isabelle, 3, both of whom continue to battle serious conditions.
Without blood donors? There would be no memories. There would be no dreams.
Article written by Frank Prosnitz; Community Manager, Rhode Island Blood Center. Frank is also the Editor of The Community Lifeline. This article first appeared in the Community Lifeline, June 2011, Volume 10, No 2. To make an appointment to donate blood in Rhode Island, please visit www.ribc.org or call (800)283-8385.