Canada Day will be a little different this year. Covid-19.restrictions will cull most mass gatherings, family reunions, and patriotic parades.
My local Rotary Club, to take one example, will not serve several thousand pancakes to long lines of sunburned people.
But despite urgings to stay home, more people will hit the road. Hotels and restaurants are gradually opening again. We may not be able to drive to the Grand Canyon yet. But British Columbians can still drive to Wells Gray Park or Hell’s Gate.
One summer, we drove across northern Ontario. I had an early Volvo. Its instructions specified “premium gasoline only.”
As we rolled along the TransCanada Highway towards Thunder Bay, the needle on the Volvo’s gas gauge dipped lower. And lower.
I tried several rural gas stations. No premium; only regular. I drove on.
Finally, just past the point where Terry Fox gave up his marathon-a-day attempt to run across Canada, my car ran out of gas.
It was a long walk into Thunder Bay.
More cars, more accidents
Starting next week, there will be more cars out on our roads. That means more accidents. And if Canadian Blood Services were to run out of gas, figuratively, people would die. Because you can’t get a refill of blood if the main tank is empty.
Earlier this year, there was a risk their tank could run empty. Because of Covid-19, fearful donors were staying away. Fortunately, after an appeal, giving went up 20%.
In fact, a friend who volunteers at donor clinics assured me, the agency takes so many precautions that you’re more likely to catch Covid-19 at home!
Canadian Blood Services maintains an online National Inventory of Blood Supply Products (https://www.blood.ca/en/blood). Earlier this week, the supply of some blood types was down to just three days. Only two common blood types had more than five days’ supply, across the whole country.
Even that won’t guarantee that the emergency room you’re taken to will have the right kind of blood to save your life. Hundreds of factors need to be checked, and matched.
A cocktail of immunities
Each of us, for example, carries antigens for every disease we have ever recovered from.
For ten years, my wife benefitted from those antigens. Because her leukemia made her ultra-susceptible to communicable infections, she received a monthly transfusion of immunoglobulin, a cocktail of thousands of other people’s antigens -- to top-up her tank, so to speak.
I can’t imagine how many millions of donors she was indebted to.
Towards the end of her life, she made a symbolic effort to repay one or two of them.
As leukemia continued to ravage her blood, her hemoglobin had dropped dangerously low. Hemoglobin is, loosely, the cells that make your blood look red. They convey oxygen through your circulatory system, to provide energy to your muscles and organs.
Healthy people normally have hemoglobin levels around 150. Joan’s levels had dropped below 50. Little wonder she felt chronically tired.
Our family doctor suggested that a whole blood transfusion might give her a little more energy.
A third alternative
The emergency room gave her three units of blood. It took about nine hours.
Next morning, a young ER doctor told her that even with those three units, her hemoglobin levels were still only 77. “We normally hospitalize patients at 75,” he said. He gave her a choice. Two more units of blood immediately. Or she could come back later that week for those extra units.
“There is another alternative,” Joan said.
He looked puzzled.
“I could not take the blood at all,” she said.
He looked startled.
Joan explained that she knew she was dying. The additional transfusion would give her, perhaps, another week or so of comparative comfort. But it wouldn’t change anything. “Someone else needs that blood more than I do,” she said.
The doctor’s expression suggested that no one in his experience had ever voluntarily turned down a step that could prolong life. But he accepted her decision, and sent her home.
Two units of blood is next to nothing in that whole National Inventory. But who knows – maybe those two units let some unknown person recover from emergency surgery. Maybe they helped someone with a chronic illness over a hump.
That’s the whole thing about donating blood in Canada. It is totally voluntary, and totally anonymous.
Joan made a sacrifice, so someone else might live a little longer, or a little better. Don’t let that sacrifice be meaningless.
This summer, contact your nearest Blood Services centre. For Joan’s sake, make an appointment to keep their tank filled.
Copyright © 2020 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups encouraged; links from other blogs welcomed; all other rights reserved.
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About last week’s column, on tearing down statues, Heather Sandilands wrote, “I agree that we tend to rewrite history instead of learn from it when we remove statues completely. I also agree with others who say perhaps we should rethink putting on pedestals any person because, as you pointed out, everyone has clay feet.
“In the great debate about what to do about things named for Egerton Ryerson -- colleges, churches, statues -- I noticed that no one mentioned that Ryerson (good Methodist chap) wanted to make education publicly available and funded so that everyone could attend school. This was in contrast to the reality of his day that education was only for the wealthy and the privileged. He encouraged Indigenous people to attend the schools so that they could participate on equal footing with the colony that was developing. Debate that, right or wrong. But I am convinced that he would never have condoned what the Indian Residential Schools became.
“Let us honour that which is honourable, let us repent for that which is not. Let us work for something better.”
Randy Hall would concur: “I live in the South of the United States, North Carolina specifically. It is here that the statues are coming down at a faster pace, and I think that it is a good thing. I would like to see them placed in local museums with explanatory exhibits to explain the cultural realities that existed when those people lived, why they were venerated, and why it became necessary to change the locations of the statues. My hope is that such presentations might lead to understanding, forgiveness, and renewal.
“You ask ‘What or who will replace them?’ Perhaps images of those who have taught us about mutual respect, peace, and love. Personally, I'd like to see one of Jesus with a towel and basin.”
Helen Reid: Many of the names from history belong only there. Certainly they were people of their generation, but we need to lift up scientists, teachers, medical people and others who have worked for the common good in this generation.”
Tom Watson noted that “most statues were of people of power -- generally political or military power. Most of them, as you suggest, were neither all good nor all bad, and which aspect is highlighted depends upon who's writing the history. Am I likely to be moved, one way or the other, by a statue of a famous leader, aside from using that person as a historical reference point? I doubt that walking past a statue of Winston Churchill, or anyone else, every day in the city square will change many attitudes about him. It makes one ask why we bother to put up statues to begin with.”
Bob Rollwagen noted some local examples: “In Mississauga, they want to rename Winston Churchill Road, and in Toronto, Dundas St. I have not taken the time to find out what they did. [Although] I do believe that if it had not been for Winston, the results of WW II would have been drastically different.
“We need to focus on the current problems, not history. There are a few people walking the earth at the moment who think they should be memorialized when in fact I believe they should be locked up. What people did in the past is being repeated every day in our current global society and we are trying to correct history instead of learning from it.”
Isabel Gibson cited my comment: “Everyone has flaws … There is no such thing as wholly wrong, or wholly right.”
To which she responded, “Yes. ‘Re-plaquing’ statues to give a broader view of an individual's legacy would be my preference.
“On the broader issue I'm with Solzhenitsyn, who knew a thing or two about evil: ‘If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?’”
Steve Roney argued “The nominal reasons these statues are being torn down are obviously spurious: they differ statue by statue. Nor is there any sense that the statues torn down represent the worst offenders, of whatever crime they are charged with. There is a mural of Benito Mussolini still displayed inside a Montreal church. Nobody has called for its removal.
“These statues are torn down because of envy. The fact of a statue proclaims that someone has done something worth notice with their life. That is intolerable to any narcissist who has not.
“It is always easier to pull down than to build up.”
David Edwards: I've been reading James Daschuk's Clearing The Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation, and the Loss of Aboriginal Life, and it certainly filled me with rage against John A. MacDonald as the most prominent advocate of ‘getting rid of the Indian problem by getting rid of the Indian’. Perhaps painting his statue red helps express someone's anger, but it can't change the past.”
John Shaffer takes a pessimistic view: “At the present time, the United States of America is incapable for voting for good leaders, if such exist. For sure, a middle of the road candidate can't get nominated by either party: people who stand in the middle of the road get run over.”
Mark Roberts noted the irony that George Flood, who is now being turned into an icon himself, was not himself an admirable character.
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ALVA WOOD ARCHIVE
The late Alva Wood’s collection of satiric and sometimes wildly funny columns about a mythical village’s misadventures now have an archive (don’t ask how this happened) on my website: http://quixotic.ca/Alva-Wood-Archive. Feel free to browse all 550 columns.