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Editor’s Note: Our wonderful Meridian authors are taking turns sharing experiences related to the prompts on the #LightTheWorld service calendar as part of the Church’s Christmas campaign.

Today two authors responded to the suggested service prompt to give blood. We’ve included both of their poignant thoughts below. To download a copy of this service calendar, CLICK HERE.

From RoseMarie Briggs:

Today’s Light the World act of service suggests donating blood and reminds us that “Your selfless service can save a life.” In addition to donating blood to those in need, there is another less known way to serve and potentially save lives. It is registering to be a bone marrow donor. In about 75 percent of cases, stem cells can be taken from donated blood. “Be The Match, operated by the National Marrow Donor Program, has managed the largest and most diverse marrow registry in the world,” according to its website. There is a great need to increase this registry because a surprising “70 percent of all patients who need a transplant don’t have a fully matched donor in their family. A patient’s likelihood of finding a match donor on Be The Match registry is estimated to range from 19-80 percent, depending on ethnic background.” Those between the ages of 18 and 44 and meet the health guidelines, can click here to learn about how to register.

My son, Michael, joined this registry on December 19, 2015 when our local community pulled together for the “Cure Natasha Bone Marrow Drive.” When Natasha was just 10 years old she was diagnosed with aplastic anemia. Natasha was very sick with a rare autoimmune disease where her body attacked her bone marrow. There was not a match for her among the current bone marrow registry. With the support of amazing friends, a Presbyterian church in Maryland hosted a bone marrow drive. The top radio news station in the Washington, DC metro area—WTOP did a news story on this touching community event. Nearly 1,000 volunteers from near and far met the requirements and took the cheek swab test to get registered. As it turned out a match for Natasha did not emerge from that drive, but a match for someone else in need did. 

Natasha’s story of hope took a different turn. Living relatively close to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, Natasha’s mother enrolled her in an experimental immunotherapy treatment at NIH. The specific treatment Natasha received turned out to be the most successful of the various treatments and has since been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Natasha is now a sophomore in high school, plays lacrosse, gets straight A’s in honors’ classes and has good friends. Natasha’s story was told on Facebook at Natasha’s Knights!

From Meghan Decker:

I have donated blood off and on since college. It is called “The Gift of Life,” and since I am eligible to donate, it feels like something important I can do for someone without too much effort. Also, I am usually offered cookies or crackers and juice afterwards—it’s a win-win!

Now I’m more serious about it. My 93-year-old father needs one to two units of blood every week or so. His bone marrow has aged along with him, and his red blood cell count is almost always dangerously low. Whatever “credit” I have from my donations over the years is quickly eclipsed by his need, and I realize I am deeply in the debt of kind strangers—the ones I sit and chat with while we eat our cookies and drink our juice, the people who for some reason find satisfaction in dedicating an hour to a somewhat uncomfortable act of service that will benefit a patient they will never meet—the people who make the effort to schedule an appointment, show up, give their blood, and earn a cookie.

Do they have any idea that they are keeping my dad alive, the man who at 17 went into combat in the caves of Okinawa, who heard the bells ring when he first met my mother, who served in the temple for years but can no longer remember that service? Do they realize the gift of a bit more life they are giving him and us? Thank you to those who are willing and able to donate blood today. You are helping the old men, the young moms, the little children, and all the other who are receiving a gift that can’t be manufactured in Santa’s workshop or the most sophisticated lab in the world. You are giving the Gift of Life. Thank you with all my heart.