Life Bring it on

Kevin
Kevin Higgins
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Gander woman knows first-hand importance of donating

If Gail Adams could have one wish, it wouldn't be for riches, vacations or anything material - it would be to be given the opportunity to make one change in her life.

"If I could have a do-over, it would be that I was a blood donor," said Adams, who on March 17, 2006, was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia. "I was never a blood donor before I was diagnosed, and I can't do it now. But if I could change one thing in the past, it would be that I would donate blood."

Gail Adams (left) had the opportunity to meet and thank Valerie Jones-Bean for becoming a bone marrow donor. Submitted photo

Gander -

If Gail Adams could have one wish, it wouldn't be for riches, vacations or anything material - it would be to be given the opportunity to make one change in her life.

"If I could have a do-over, it would be that I was a blood donor," said Adams, who on March 17, 2006, was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia. "I was never a blood donor before I was diagnosed, and I can't do it now. But if I could change one thing in the past, it would be that I would donate blood."

After being admitted to hospital three days after her diagnosis, Adams received two lots of chemotherapy treatment before going into remission. She also found out she would require a bone marrow transplant.

However, before it reached the stage of requiring a bone marrow transplant, Adams received 26 units of blood and 16 PHS transfusions.

"This is certainly a valuable gift and I thank everybody who has given blood," said Adams, who is originally from Milton, near Clarenville, but has lived in Gander since 1978. "I would not have gotten to the point of needing a bone marrow transplant without those who donated blood.

"Simply put, I wouldn't be here without it."

Even though Adams is unable to donate blood, she quickly informed Canadian Blood Services, when she was back on her feet, that she would do whatever she could to help promote the gift of giving blood.

For this, and because of her success story, Canadian Blood Services will hold Gail Adams "In Honour of" blood donor clinics in Gander Nov. 3-4 at Fraser Road United Church Hall.

"We have done this sort of thing in the past, but we are very selective," said Paul McGrath, regional manager of communications for Canadian Blood Services. "If we do an In Honour clinic we want to make sure the person has a great story to tell. We also find that it is the best way to get the message out of how important donating blood is, as it relates a real-life story to blood donation."

Registered

While Adams wasn't a blood donor prior to requiring the life-saving liquid, she did have her name on the One Match stem cell and marrow network registry list - without thinking it would be her life saved by the program.

That day was Sept. 30, 2006, when she received a bone marrow transplant in Halifax from an anonymous donor. During the course of her transplant, she also received two units of apheresed platelets, one unit of pre-filtered platelets, and three units of regular platelets.

"My donor was found through the One Match stem cell and marrow network, and without this organization I would not be here today," she said. "I was on this registry as a donor, never thinking someday I would be a recipient, but this is one time I can say one person made a difference. If it wasn't for the selfless act of my donor I would not be here today. She saved my life."

After three more weeks in St. John's, Adams returned to Gander and spent 18 months recovering from her illness, before returning to work on an ease-back program, March 13 the following year.

And last July, Adams got to meet her bone marrow donor, Valerie Jones-Bean, in Jones-Bean's hometown of Coldwater, N.H.

"I was totally blown away getting to meet her and being able to thank her in person for what she did," said Adams. "We are still very much in touch with each other."

And while Adams has lent her name to the upcoming blood donor clinic in Gander, she also has a personal interest in something happening two weeks later - Nov. 16 is National Stem Cell Awareness Week.

"Not only is it important to give blood, but it's also important, and I can attest to this, to be registered with One Match," she said. "It's so easy to register, and it can be done at the blood clinic. You just don't know who you might be helping, or who might help you."

Adams said because of the generous blood donors, as well as Jones-Bean, she has been able to celebrate her mother's 80th birthday, her only son's wedding day, and the birth of her granddaughter.

Through it all, and there were good and bad days, Adams said she held a positive outlook, and now that she's three years into her remission, she goes simply by the attitude, "Life - Bring it on."

It's a message she said she has passed on to many friends during the past three years.

Organizations: Canadian Blood Services, Fraser Road United Church Hall

Geographic location: Gander, Milton, Clarenville Halifax St. John's Coldwater

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