By Art Gunderson
I started routinely donating blood in Olympia in 1996 and have always been impressed by the friendly and professional staff and volunteers. I had never experienced or even known someone with a problem that required a transfusion of blood products, but knew how vitally important the blood supply is for many in our region.
Then on April 4th of 2009, my 31-year-old son Nate became seriously ill at his daughter’s 1st Birthday party at our home. At the hospital in Seattle, the doctors determined that Nate had contracted bacterial endocarditis and needed an urgent aortic heart valve replacement.
The disease progressed and a few weeks later he needed several units of blood and another emergency heart valve replacement. The day after his surgery he was transported to Sacred Heart Hospital in Spokane where he was kept alive in the cardiac ICU for two months on the heart transplant list.
On July 5, 2009, Nate received a lifesaving heart transplant. This entire process required dozens of units of blood. Over the four months of his illness I found myself overwhelmed with gratitude for the hundred or so people who had donated blood to save my son’s life.
Today, six months after his heart transplant, Nate is healthy and sharing life with his wife and little daughter, and I am back donating and telling everyone I know to be a blood and organ donor. It is amazing that such a simple (and enjoyable) thing could be so life changing! I am a donor for life.