Monday, December 5, 2011

The Gifts Money Can't Buy

Everywhere you look, especially at this time of year, there are countless opportunities to give back and support those less fortunate.  Whether collecting money, goods, or food, it’s uplifting to see all of the creative and innovative ways people are coming together and supporting their communities. 
But in addition to all of these generous programs, there is an often forgotten yet critical need for donations which can save a life.  The gift of blood, bone marrow or organs can mean the difference between life and death for a seriously ill person, and unlike food, toys, or coats, cannot be bought at any price.  We tend to forget how desperate the need is for these donations, but also how easy they are to give.  Perhaps 2012 will be the year you decide to give the gift of:

Blood:  My new issue of Shape Magazine arrived yesterday, and as I was reading it I was shocked to learn on page 32 that only 3 percent of Americans donate blood each year.  That leaves 97% of our population who do not.  Now granted, a portion of those people cannot give even if they wanted to due to health issues (like me), but what if more healthy people would donate blood?  I required a bag of platelets during each bone marrow transplant, and needed four bags of blood after each hip replacement.  That’s 10 bags of blood products just for me alone!  You don’t have to watch Gray’s Anatomy to know that blood is necessary for transfusions and major surgeries, and there is a huge shortage.  Often a patient can have their own blood collected prior to a big surgery, but if you’ve been sick or have low blood pressure, they won’t allow you to (this is what happened to me).  In the amount of time it takes to linger over a latte at Starbucks, you can donate blood at your nearest hospital or at a scheduled drive.  It’s as easy as a simple IV, and you can relax with a book or work on your iPad.  Afterward, you can help yourself to some tasty snacks.  For more info on how to become a donor, visit

Organs:  Becoming an organ donor is a simple, administrative process and has the potential to give someone a second chance at life.    Currently, over 112,000 people in this country are waiting to receive a life-saving organ, and the need for donors grows every day.   According to, a single organ donor can save up to eight lives!  Sadly, 18 people die every day waiting for an organ.  Registering as a donor is simple, and all the information you need is available at  The next time you find yourself at the RMV, you can register on the spot.  Also, don’t forget to make your family aware of your wishes, and indicate your decision on any legal documents, such as your will or Health Proxy.

Bone marrow:  Fortunately, I was able to collect enough of my own stem cells for both of my transplants, but not every patient is able to be an autologous (their own) donor.  Like a kidney, bone marrow can be donated from a living donor.  For more information and to register as a donor, simply visit; a simple cheek swab is all that’s necessary.  DKMS Americas is the world’s largest bone marrow donor center, and does not require any payment to register.

Good Search:  I recently discovered this wonderful search engine which donates money to the charitable organization of your choice each and every time you search online!  It’s as simple as Google, but your search is actually benefiting a deserving organization!  Simply visit and select the non-profit you wish to support (you can only support one organization at a time, but you can change it before any search).  From the website, you can also use GoodShop and GoodDining, and help raise funds while you shop online or make restaurant reservations.  From the homepage, you can download the GoodSearch Toolbar to display across your screen instead of Google, so every search automatically benefits the charity of your choice.  BRILLIANT!!!

Where Did Mommy’s Superpowers Go?:  My book is often purchased by newly diagnosed patients who have small children, or as gifts from friends and family members for someone going through a health crisis.  But don’t forget this book is a useful resource for a school or town library, a school nurse or guidance department, teachers, pediatricians, hospital social work and oncology departments, support groups, or child therapists.  Support your independent bookstores and shop local by picking up a copy at Willow Books and Café in Acton, or The Paper Store in Acton, Maynard, or Sudbury.  If you prefer to shop online, you can order a copy at  Of course, the book is available at Amazon and as well.

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