Only 13?

It has been more than one and a half year that I haven’t donated my blood, as I have always been sick, tired and busy. Yet yesterday evening I felt fresh and healthy that I thought I would be eligible to donate. I was on the way to ride back home after my biking evening with Yoni, my best friend, and we agreed to drop by the Blood Transfusion Center of Banda Aceh Red Cross Society.

It was almost 9 p.m. when we arrived. The Center looked like a sleepy building, with only one man sitting on white bench at the waiting room for blood request section, with his tired eyes staring at nothing while he inhaled his cigarette deeply – a typical look of Acehnese man in the waiting room.
None sat at the benches at blood donor section, and as we followed the sign and entered the Blood Donation Section, we still found none there except a girl in yellow veil named Melani. I weighed myself, thank God, I gained my 1,5 kilos back after losing it during my previous heart-broken weeks. Then Melani took my blood to check my hemoglobin level and my blood type. I was so disappointed to see my blood drops floated in the blue liquid that she used to check the hemoglobin level. It meant that my hemoglobin level is lower than 12,5, indicating that I was not an eligible donor. I was a little disappointed, so I asked her to take my blood again and rechecked the drop. The result was still the same. My blood was not “heavy” enough.
Still with my wishful thinking, I asked her to measure my blood pressure. The result was disappointing: 106/63, too low for a donor, because the normal pressure should be minimum 110/90.
Anyway, it was good enough, regarding that in the last one month my blood pressure was sadly ranging in 88/56, then 96/60, then 105/60 in the last one month…

Finally Ahyoni volunteered to donate his blood. It was his second time, and I did appreciate his guts. Even it started with his worries to see the needle, yet he coped with that well. Very gooddd, buddy!:)

As Yoni was lying down with the pipe ran his blood to the blood bag, I chatted with Melani. I wondered if they have special room for children with Thalassemia like in the Transfusion Center in my hometown, Semarang. Apparently they don’t have such room for the children even they have regular patients taking the transfusion. I felt nostalgic, I remembered that the best feeling I had when I donated my blood in Semarang was when I passed the Thalassemia room and saw the faces of the children from a tiny glass window on the white door there. I have never known those cute children by name, yet I felt blessed to know that soon my blood will be poured into their veins and support their life for another month or so…

Not so long after Yoni finished, there was a little girl with big beautiful eyes entering the room. A nurse took her blood, and my heart bumped so painfully when I saw her. I knew by heart that she was one of those…

I approached her. I had never been so close with Thalassemia bearer before even my blood might had been flowing in some of their body. I wanted to cry as I saw her eyes. So brilliant, so alive. It was just hard to accept the fact that she couldn't live without other's red blood cells. I smiled at her, and she smiled back at me as a small syringe was plugged into her left upper arm by the nurse.
It was our first word spoken in reflex.
“Is it painful?” I asked her.
“No.” She smiled.
Then silence. I was afraid to question her more.
“Are you donor?” She asked me.
I was ashamed, hesitating.
“Mmh..yes... I was planning to donate, but my hemoglobin was too low.”
“So, are you a donor too?” ;-) I blinked at her.
We both laughed. We both knew the answer.
“I’m gonna have transfusion.”
“Impossible for now. There is no blood tonight. I’m in waiting list, they will get me two bags tonight so maybe tomorrow afternoon I’ll have my transfusion.”
“What is your blood type?”
Oh. I wanted to cry at the same second. I felt that I owe her a life that I could actually share… if only I was healthier, if only I was more eligible…
“What’s yours?”, she asked me back.
Ashamed, I answered… “B.”
She paused. “Too bad.”
I looked at her, “Wish I was healthier.”
“No problem. Maybe next time.”
She smiled again, her brilliant eyes sparkling.
I gave my hand as she rose from the bed. “I’m Asri.”
“I’m M--“
“How old are you, M--?”
I wanted to hide. I couldn't stand my tears from bursting. She’s too young, too vibrant…
She walked to the door. A sort of stunned, I followed her like a dumb. She smiled again to me. Her eyes blinking, teasing me. “See you then, I might have your blood next time… coz I’m a vampire!” then she laughed.

I felt uneasy, so uneasy. It feels like I’m facing a hungry little girl who is about to faint with a box of food in my hand that I can’t give, since if I gave it away then I’ll be the one fainted... I felt so sad.
I went out some minutes later when she was already leaving. Then I heard the Center staff talked about their guilty feeling of not having enough blood that day. Before M--, there was another child coming with face palely white, needing the O type blood. Yet there is no stock kept there. In average the Transfusion Unit of Banda Aceh Red Cross needs at least 50 bags of blood per day, yet there are only approximately 13 donors come to donate each day…

I am sure that there are more than 13 people in this city are healthy enough to donate.
The question is, ...where are they?

Final Stagnancy

Sunset at Ulee Lheue, Aceh, the 2004 Tsunami "Ground Zero"

I found this, my my catharsis when I have just started working in Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) Unit, in my diary folder. At that time DRR was totally a new term in Aceh that even some NGO workers would laugh when they heard about it. Some even said that it didn't make sense, or ridiculous to be applied as the reconstruction and rehabilitation process in Aceh has been moving forward for almost three years. My advisor said that he had been living the stagnant state of zero support plus zero initiatives in the province, and as a new kid on the block (after living the old kids in other blocks :p), I felt the challenges (that some people called as hardship) were really visible on the way.
And here it is, my old writing from 11 March 2007, titled 'A Final Stagnancy'...

Time goes by so quickly. Apparently, one month is not as long as it is in the imagination. Lots of things have been done as the other lots are awaiting to be done. Nothing is completed yet except the number of people working in my team*. However I am happy enough to realize that I am not alone and I am no longer a lone walker.
I am a new man on the field. Say that term of man is gender biased, as I don’t mind to be a man for a while. I must be strong, I foresee that I will fight like a man sometimes. I must be able to be anything (not only 'anyone') necessary when it deals with the reaching to final destination. Creating strategy is indeed more complicated than just running a rule on whatever it takes. Strategies put my mind in a path. I must cut off the bushes and get rid of stony ground to move on more quickly later. And it’s exciting to see my new path is easy to walk on, until in some point I witness a destination.
I am learning and I move on. If stagnancy is a deal that I must take than I will choose to have a final stagnancy after all the things I need settled and understood. I am here as part of a team working on public awareness and policy. It is not impossible but it is not too simple.
How can we move it, is another question to ask and to challenge with all constrains ahead and happiness when constrains come to final end due to our fantastic strategy.
Nothing is ordinary here. And I guess, I am here because I am not an ordinary…

Now, fourteen months later, I am thankful that it is not the final stagnancy that we have. With my team, we have been nursing the birth of DRR activities, awareness and policies one by one, step by step. What I always believe is that when we start with good intention, all other good intentions in the universe will be generated around us, bringing helping hands and supports, as much as growing the good will in the heart of good people. There won't be a final stagnancy as long as the force of good intention lives. Insya Allah, NEVER. :-)

"The activist is not the man who says the river is dirty. The activist is the man who cleans up the river." -Ross Perrot- (I found this quote in a calendar laid on the desk of a government office in Banda Aceh; I love the spirit!)