Lately, I have been thinking a lot about my father and his last few months of life. I recalled how he struggled to climb the stairs to his apartment, yet remained determined to do it on his own, despite the pain and knowledge of his possible death. He fought with all his might, and his resilience and mental strength amazed everyone, including medical professionals. He had done the math and accepted his fate, but never gave up on life. Don’t tell him that it’s not possible, that he was proving the opposite! An ability I’m glad was passed down genetically!
Recently, I had went to register for the Dutch blood donation program, and it reminded me of the desperate need for blood in Romania, where my father was treated for leukemia. In Romania, the medical system is in need of blood donors, and it is often the family members of patients who are the ones who must search for donors. There is a desperate need for blood every day, yet there are not enough donors. I was struck by the contrast between my experience in Romania and the organized, welcoming, and efficient process I encountered in the Dutch blood donation center. The civic spirit of the Dutch was evident, with people of all ages coming to donate blood and plasma.
I was impressed by the fact that in the Netherlands, donors can be up to 80 years old, as long as they meet the requirements. This stands is in contrast to Romania, where my father’s friends over 60 were not allowed to donate. I remembered all the trips I made with my father to the outpatient clinic, where we struggled to find a parking space and struggled to navigate the to navigate the steep slopes of the hospitals making sure we move quickly with all the forms to get in (nothing digital) lest we lose the only available bed space; until waiting for the blood, which on some days was not because too few units had been received in the hospital. Sometimes the blood was not available because too few units had been received at the hospital, and doctors had to prioritize and triage it to cases when the amount of blood was too little.
Despite the best efforts of doctors and nurses, the organization of the Romanian medical system and the lack of civic spirit in society made the experience a nightmare. In contrast, the Dutch system showed me how a more organized and compassionate system can make a world of difference. The administrator at the Dutch center who thanked me for my donation made me feel valued and appreciated.
My favorite quote remains valid for any society, any medical system, any organizational and administrative structure, any daily interaction between people: Maya Angelou’s quote, „I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”