Emely Amoloza lost her daughter to cancer seven years ago. But it was gratitude, not grief, that pushed the then administrative officer at the UP Open University (UPOU) to launch a public service initiative that has become an anticipated annual event: the UPOU Blood Donation Drive.
Her daughter was a quiet young woman who was enjoying university life as a second-year Applied Physics major at UP Los Baños (UPLB). She spent her free time reaching out to children who lived near the train tracks outside campus. She shared her knowledge with them, showed them kindness the best way she knew how. She didn’t even tell her mother about it; she didn’t think herself or what she did exceptional. It was only at Haydelle’s wake, when those children came to visit, that Emely realized the extent of her daughter’s generosity and compassion for others.
Haydelle was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2010. Things looked good after her operation, but life took a heartbreaking turn just a few months later. It was December when they learned that the cancer had returned. In January 2011, it had metastasized and was classified as stage IV. She succumbed to her illness on April 18, 2011—twelve days after she had turned 19.
Paying it forward
“When you go through something like this, you don’t really expect an outpouring of support. But there it was and it was really overwhelming,” Emely recalls, teary-eyed.
Relatives, friends, former classmates at the UP Rural High School and UPLB—hers and Haydelle’s, and UPOU colleagues—rallied around the Amoloza family during those difficult times. And it was something that stayed with Emely. “I was so grateful at the amount of help that was extended to us. I still am. We were really blessed to have received so much love.”
It was that feeling of gratitude and her daughter’s kindness that inspired Emely to find a way of helping others, to provide what they need. While it wasn’t very challenging for their family to find blood supplies for Haydelle, she knew that other patients weren’t as fortunate as her daughter. “I thought a blood drive would be a good way of paying it forward.”
There is no substitute for human blood and it is always in high demand. According to the Red Cross, patients with cancer, trauma, extensive burns, blood diseases, and chronic illnesses benefit most from blood donations. Their lives depend on it.
Blood is a resource that healthy persons can easily replenish. In fact, they can donate every three months. Donating blood benefit not only the recipients but the donors as well. Apart from the emotional satisfaction of knowing you are helping save lives, bloodletting reduces iron stores in the body. Studies have been made on how high levels of iron in the blood increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and liver diseases, among others.
To have a heart
Emely, now a university extension associate, says that it wasn’t hard to get UPOU support for the blood drive because public service is one of the University’s main functions. It also wasn’t hard to get the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) on board because it welcomes initiatives such as this.
Except for 2013, the blood drive has been held in April of each year in memory of Haydelle. Emely said that she has received messages telling her that they were excited to donate, that they were asking more of their friends to go with them, that perhaps the one-day event could be extended to two so that more donors could be accommodated.
Since the program started in 2012, the number of donors has been increasing and so has the number of partner organizations. It even encouraged more people to volunteer their services and sponsor items such as food and beverage for blood donors.
As a result, UPOU’s program has been cited by the PRC “for meritorious service rendered in the promotion of Blood Services.” Emely’s way of “paying it forward” doesn’t stop with the blood donation drive. UPOU is entitled to ten percent of its total blood collection, freely given to those in need. When it runs out and there are still indigent patients asking Emely for help, she calls other blood drive organizers to ask for their “free blood.” She also extends assistance to those who need to secure blood from the PRC.
Emely said that while the program was conceived by a mother’s gratitude, it owes a big part of its life to the University.
“Looking back on everything—Haydelle’s selflessness, the generosity of my co-workers in UPOU, the unrelenting support from my schoolmates and my daughter’s schoolmates, my passion for this endeavor—I realize that this blood drive exists because UP taught us ‘puso,’ what it truly means to have a heart. It allowed me to transcend the despair of losing my daughter, to be thankful, and to pass on to others the kindness bestowed upon me and my family.”