Giving the gift of life

The giving spirit is contagious this time of year. Whether it be Toys for Tots, or canned goods for those in need – everyone tries to chip in.

But, as ABC 10’s Rick Tarsitano explains, one of the most helpful donations gets left out in the cold.

Every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood. Even though an estimated 9.2 million people pump out pint-sized donations each year, the needles tend to run dry come Christmas time.

That can be troublesome for people like Kenneth Cheatham.

“I’ve been a frequent flyer with the blood bank,” noted Cheatham.

Cheatham has been coming in for dialysis three times a week since 1998, when doctors in Rochester, Minnesota forgot to sew up one of his valves during a kidney transplant.

It was a problem that wasn’t fully understood until one fateful, muggy summer night.

“I was perspiring. I thought that it was just me perspiring, and I come to find out that I was perspiring three pints of blood, ” chuckled Cheatham. “It turned out that my dialysis site had exploded. If it hadn’t been for my wife, who’s an RN, she saved my life until the medics got here to take me to the hospital.”

Once there, Cheatham received three to four pints of blood.

“It allowed me to remain alive. That’s what it allowed me to do,” Cheatham laughed.

Despite all of his ailments, Cheatham maintains a positive attitude because he knows his life is a gift.

“The people that are in the donor program, they’re precious. They’re precious. They don’t know it, but they really are,” added Cheatham.

He’d be first in line to give back to those who helped him, but he’s now part of the 63 percent of Americans who are unable.

“If I could donate now, I would be there every time that I could. But, I can’t under this situation that I’m in now,” Cheatham remarked. “I can’t donate blood ever again.”

Cheatham used to donate a fair amount of blood himself while serving in the military at K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base.

“Units had contests to see how many people could donate blood in a month,” said Cheatham.

But he never imagined that, one day, his donations would come full circle.

“There wasn’t any reason to believe that a recipient of something that I was donating,” Cheatham explained, “It was always for the other person. That’s our goal – to always make sure that someone else has something that you don’t need.”

Unlike toys and goodies, blood can’t be manufactured. So, consider giving the gift of life this holiday season so people like Kenneth can keep moving forward.