RICHMOND – In case you ever wanted to put a face to just who benefits from the blood donated at the various drives throughout the state, meet Keith Bloomer.
The Exeter resident's story begins about 13 years ago, when he was working as a civil engineer at the age of 26.
Suddenly, he was diagnosed with scleroderma. The chronic autoimmune disease, which has two major forms, affected Bloomer by decreasing his lung's capacity by half. This, of course, alerted his doctors and left them concerned for his life.
But, as can happen with many life-impacting diseases, the scleroderma went into remission for several years before appearing again four years ago. Bloomer's lung capacity then dropped below 50 percent, which made him require oxygen essentially 24 hours a day.
His battle with scleroderma would come to a head in November 2008, when he received a double lung transplant. During the surgery, he said that he obviously was in need of blood. But his true need would come a month later in his recovery when he underwent stomach surgery to resolve two bleeding ulcers.
During the stomach operation, he needed five units of blood “to keep me alive,” Bloomer told those in attendance during last Tuesday, Dec. 7's Town Council meeting in Richmond.
“I wouldn't be here today without someone giving the time to donate blood,” he continued.
What these donors have done, Bloomer said, is give him his life back. It's also given his family their life back, he added. He has an 8-year-old daughter at home with whom he strives to create great memories, which wouldn't be possible without the donated blood.
Bloomer then relayed a story of how he played hide and seek with his daughter while he was on oxygen, which essentially required him to carry around a 50-foot hose throughout the house.
“[It] made playing hide and seek with my daughter kind of difficult,” he said, adding that now, as he no longer has the hose, it's more difficult for her to find him. So, he joked, she sometimes says she “kind of misses the hose.”
Bloomer was at the council meeting to help promote an upcoming blood drive sponsored by the Rhode Island Blood Center at the Richmond police station on Dec. 20.
He might not be able to donate blood as he has had a transplant and is not listed as “in good health,” but anyone 16 years or older, at least 110 pounds, and in good health can donate. But what he can do, he said, is volunteer at the drives, which he actually did earlier that day at the University of Rhode Island.
Richmond Police Chief Elwood Johnson, who will be donating blood, said he understands its very easy to feel “compassion fatigue.” We're all asked for money and donations this time of the year, he continued, so that's why he asked the Rhode Island Blood Center to bring someone in to the meeting who benefited directly from blood drives.