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The Gift of Life

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It’s never easy to explain to anyone why I have become so passionate about blood donations, but how do you explain to your eight-year old daughter that the work you do has had a direct impact on her life?

When I joined Ortho-Clinical Diagnostics, Inc. (OCD) 23-years ago, I believed as strongly as I do today that the products and services of our company have a profound impact on people’s lives. But it was nine-years ago when my work and personal lives truly intertwined.

By all accounts, this was a really exciting time. I had recently relocated to the U.S., my wife and I were expecting our first child, and life was great. But then, unfortunately, things started to go wrong.

At 20 weeks of pregnancy, our baby received a diagnosis of Tetralogy of Fallot, a rare and rather complex heart defect. Due to the associated complications, it was decided that surgical intervention would be required very soon after the birth of our daughter.

And so the journey began.

The pregnancy was full of unknowns. The only thing we were sure of was that following the birth of this tiny little baby, she would need help from many people: doctors, nurses and as it turned out, blood donors. We welcomed Gemma into the world in 2005 and I quickly settled my wife into one hospital and my daughter into another.

During a quick trip to buy some much-needed provisions, I received a call from the blood transfusion department, “We are trying to access blood for your daughter’s surgery and the blood type is fairly rare, are you willing to come in and donate?” Of course I said yes, but quickly realized that my British heritage prevented me from donating in the U.S.

This was an issue.

I immediately thought about the ten million blood donors in the U.S. that readily give their blood for this very situation, and how much my future and the life of our one-day old child depended on them!

On day two of life, our little “Gem” was taken for open-heart surgery which lasted many hours and in the course of it required two units of blood for transfusion. Fortunately the repair was successful and through the extraordinary care of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and careful monitoring, Gemma is now a fun loving eight year-old – and a curious one.

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Now come the questions:

“Daddy, what happened to me when I was a baby?”

“Daddy, why do I have a special Heart?”

“Daddy, what do you do at work?”

“Daddy, why do you keep talking to people about blood?”

So, here’s the story I told Gemma.

“We all need blood to carry oxygen around our bodies and keep us healthy, but sometimes our bodies need more blood. When you were born, they had to repair your heart and the doctors needed to top-up your blood with a gift of blood from someone else.

As you get older, you will also have the chance to help others by donating your blood. It’s very simple, easy and as you know—with the many charity events you do—it also makes you feel good. It is also very important that the gift of blood from someone else mixes well with your own blood and is clean (has no bugs).

That’s where my work comes in. The company and the products I work with (OCD) make sure the blood is clean of bugs (donor screening, infectious diseases) and that the blood you receive works and mixes well with yours (blood typing and cross match).

Over time, following the mix of the two bloods it becomes one. As you continue to grow, we hope you will not need anymore. But if you do…let’s not forget the 100,000 kind and generous people across the world who step up to give blood every day, in an effort to help us all live longer, healthier lives.”

So wherever this journey may bring us, I will never let go of the personal passion that drives me and all of us at OCD. It’s so important for you, your children and also mine to realize the value of the amazing gift of life that blood donors share with the people that need it every single day.

From my heart and also Gemma’s, thank you.

Tony Hardiman is Director, Worldwide Marketing at Ortho-Clinical Diagnostics, Inc. and has been proudly serving the Donor Screening community for over twenty years.

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