As it turned out, my blood is a perfect match for Clyde's. The requirement is that the donor's blood has to have identical HLA's, whatever they are.
Words cannot explain how big a deal it is to have a match. For Clyde, it's a shot at lasting and complete relief from a condition that has plagued her for more than two decades. I don't know how many people can grasp how long that is. There are kids in college that weren't born when she was diagnosed. George Bush 1 was president at that time. Now, for Clyde, there's a light at the end of the tunnel.
Since we found out that I am the match last Spring, I have been trying to get my head around what it means to me. On one hand there is a tremendous sense of responsibility. I find myself thinking about my own safety more than usual. Clyde wanted me to sit on the couch wrapped in bubble-wrap when we learned of the test results so nothing would happen to me. I am definitely more thoughtful about what I eat. I take vitamins and fish oil daily. I have greatly curtailed my use of intoxicants. When the time comes, I want to be healthy. Clyde's counting on me.
On the other hand, I'm overwhelmingly grateful for this gift. There was nothing done on my part to qualify me for this role, yet I get a chance, a good chance, to give the gift of health to another person, a family member no less. The significance of that is "meaning of life" big. What else have I done or will I do that is bigger and of greater meaning than that? Nothing. A person could be a champion of industry, have made all the money in the world, created the world's most beautiful musice or art and still not have contributed to another's well-being on this level. Sound corny? It might, but until you're in this position, it will be very hard to understand. I know Anita get's it. She's my sister-in-law. She gave a kidney to my brother a few years ago. She earned the right to feel this way. Surgeons took out her body part. She felt pain and fear. In my case, all I have to do is lay there while they take blood from my arm. More or less risk-free. And for that I get a sense of fulfillment from life that few enjoy. It is a wonderful gift.
Apparently, words don't explain my side of the equation either. I don't mean to understate the importance and reward of being a good parent to my kids or husband to my wife Lindsay. Through those efforts I contribute to their health and well-being as well, and that's enormously important. I will work for those rewards for the rest of my life. Still, somehow this is different.
I'm looking forward to the process starting in earnest. In a few weeks we'll be in the thick of it.
Thanks Clyde for the amazing gift you're giving me. I'll do my best to return the favor.