How a blood bag saved my daughter’s life
Who is this bilirubin?
30th of March 2006 shortly before noon. My daughter Amelie sees the light of day, for the very first time. I remember it as it was yesterday. I can’t tell you how happy I was at that very moment. My second child, a girl. Cutting the umbilical cord and holding her for the first time in my arms was one of the greatest moments in my life.
There is little that is more emotional and more important in your life than the birth of your child. There is nothing more touching. It makes you realize why you are on this planet and how small all the problems are that keep you busy all the time.
Is she a minion?
The light in the maternity ward was dimmed to make it an as cosy atmosphere as possible. So it took a little while until we noticed it. It was actually my wife Manuela who said all of a sudden: “Isn’t she yellow?”.
“I don’t think so.” I responded. But the mother instincts were stronger. When the nurse came back in the room, Manuela asked her to switch on the full lights, so we could check if Amelie was yellow or not.
From there everything went fast. Another nurse entered the room, followed by the doctor, another doctor and two more nurses. Not even 10 minutes later, Amelie was on her way to intensive care. Diagnosis: neonatal jaundice! What a shock.
Neonatal jaundice is a yellowish discoloration of the white part of the eyes and skin in a newborn baby due to high bilirubin levels. In simple terms, her red blood cells got destroyed as a result of a blood group incompatibility between Manuela and I.
We knew about it as our first born Philipp had a mild form of neonatal jaundice three and a half years earlier. Back then, the doctors told us about the increasing risk with a second or third child and recommended a vaccination for Manuela, which she took.
We lived in Belgium at the time Amelie was born and luckily, the closest hospital with a maternity ward was the university hospital Gasthuisberg Leuven. So we had easy access to everything she needed.
The doctors told us that they have never seen a case where a newborn suffered neonatal jaundice after being vaccinated.
Amelie’s first sunbed experience
Only hours after Amelie was born, she took her first sunbad at intensive care. She was so little, so vulnerable, and there was nothing we could do but wait. Can you imagine how difficult this has been especially for Manuela, who wasn’t able to hold her little girl in her arms. She only was allowed in every couple of hours to try and breast feed her.
When you think it can’t get worst
The doctors informed us only after the fact. The phototherapy failed and Amelie’s blood values didn’t improve fast enough, so they had to move fast to the next step: blood transfer.
The doctors explained it to us as if they would ‘wash’ the blood until the bad blood cells were washed out and her body would stop fighting against them.
It was heartbreaking seeing this little something, still yellow, connected to all the tubes, cables and machines, cleaning her blood from the bad cells.
I want… no, I have to give back
It was in this very moment when I realised how important blood donors are. Without selfless people who donate blood to help others, not expecting anything in return, besides the great feeling knowing that they helped another person. I’ve been so thankful that I decided at that very moment that I had to do the same. I had to become a blood donor and help others as we had been helped to save the life of our little girl.
That was in March 2006. In May of the same year, I donated blood for the very first time. As if the universe had listened to me, the company I worked for at the time, did host the blood donation this time. So I simply had to walk down one floor, enter the meeting room, which got converted into a donor room, and do it.
The process was managed by the Flemish Red Cross. Despite being a little scared the first time, and actually had a bit of a circulatory problem right after, I haven’t felt so rewarded for a very long time.
Back home, I cuddled my little girl, feeling so blessed that she fully recovered, and told my wife that I donated blood for the very first time.
Life is too short
I’m still going to donate blood for the ones who need it. Every time it’s over, I feel awesome about having been able to help somebody in need. It is such a great feeling knowing that you contributed a tiny bit in saving someone else’s life. Maybe a little baby boy or girl. That makes me feel so calm inside.
(Translation: You and we are donating blood. German Red Cross)
Every time I go to donate blood, I think about the time we were in need and were helped. I wanted to share this story for long, but you know how it goes. Life is moving on, and you forget about it, until the next time.
My appeal to you: “Don’t wait for the perfect moment. It will never come. Don’t wait to fulfill your dreams. It might be too late. Don’t be selfish. It is so much more rewarding to be selfless. And, start donating blood, if you are allowed to. Saving only one life, like our little girl’s one, it’s totally worth it.”
Go and find the blood donation organization in your country and get registered.
Right after, take an empty sheet of paper and write down what you truly expect from life, without any limitations. If you could start tomorrow to follow your dreams, your passion. What would that be?
The only one that is holding you back is YOU.
The only one that can change that is YOU.
What are you waiting for?
Follow your passion and live your life. You only have one (well, some might have other opinions, and that’s fine too).