This post was written by Kate Meier, who works for our local Red Cross in Charlotte.
I hate needles. Hate hate hate them. The thought of needles and shots brings me to tears.
But every 56 days, I face my fear to donate blood. And every couple of weeks, I face my fear twice to donate platelets (a needle in each arm).
The reason I started donating is because of my cousin, Kira.
Kira was probably the most beautiful little girl you could imagine. Soft, blond hair, big eyes, fair skin. She looked like what I always thought an angel looked like.
She was diagnosed with leukemia when she was an infant, but she fought it off. Years after the initial diagnosis, as Kira was starting elementary school, the cancer came back. That’s when the battle truly began.
She had all the ups and downs most cancer patients face. Moments of hope, moments of despair. Good days, bad days.
I remember visiting her nearly a decade ago. Kira was on a medicine that caused her to gain a lot of weight. At that point, her hair – which had all fallen out – had just started to grow back – short and brownish. To boot, Kira had to wear a mask around her face because her system was so vulnerable that any germs could have killed her. Even we, her family, did a double-take when we first saw her.
Kira had multiple transfusions, surgeries and a bone marrow transplant. Her body rejected the marrow. Her kidneys failed. She was in a full-body cast at one point. She suffered a massive stroke.
But let me tell you – I never heard that girl complain. I’m sure she did – how could you not? But whenever I was around Kira, she was smiling. And boy, did that girl have a generous heart.
At one point, she lost so much weight and her body was so weak she had to walk with a cane. Yet she still managed to surprise my dad with his favorite pie by climbing the stairs to our house to hand-deliver it.
One holiday season, Kira – herself a very sick girl – insisted that she put together stockings for all the kids who would have to stay in the hospital over Christmas.
A few years ago, our sweet Kira lost the battle with cancer when she was just 20, surrounded by her family in the hospital. Her little body simply couldn’t take it anymore.
But man, did she put up one heck of a fight when she was here. I remember hearing all the time stuff like, “I don’t think she’ll make it to another Christmas.” But Kira did. She made it to her first day of grade school. She made it to her prom (escorted by not one but two college students who had grown to know her through their work with a cancer nonprofit). She made it to her high school graduation day.
One of the reasons Kira was able to hit these milestones was because of blood donors. I guess I always figured that if she could sustain excruciating pain, tons of surgeries and a life-long battle with cancer – all with a smile on her face and thinking of how she could help others – I could put up with a few moments of discomfort from a needle.
That’s why I give – for people like Kira. Every time you give blood, that blood can save up to three lives. Every time I give blood, I picture Kira, our precious angel, smiling that smile of hers. And then that little needle doesn’t bother me at all.