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Donate blood: Do it for Danny

There is a word in colloquial Spanish called concuño. It basically means the guy who married your wife's sister. In white America, there is no formal relationship, but on the Hispanic side of things, there is supposed to be a certain bond there. I've had several different concuños over the years (don't ask), and perhaps it's the Italian-Irish gringo in me, but I haven't been particularly fond of some of them. Nor, it goes without saying, they of me.

One I always have gotten along with is Danny, married to my wife's sister Lucia. We have absolutely nothing in common except wives that sorta look like each other. I met him when I was in college and he was in high school. He had hair halfway down his back, and he was into music and not sports, but he was cool.

The extended family gathers at a restaurant several times during the year to celebrate clusters of birthdays. Attendance is sporadic, but Danny and Lucy (and their kids) are always there.

When the eating is done, the sisters invariably go to the mall for some serious shopping. More often than not, Danny goes with them. I've always thought that either this guy really likes shopping, or he's screwing it up for all the rest of us guys.

I was writing last week's column when Lucy called to tell me that Danny had suffered a heart attack. I didn't understand how that could be. Danny's in his mid-40s. He doesn't drink or smoke or use drugs. He's this big around (think a small circle). But he does have diabetes, and apparently, that was a big part of the problem.

He hadn't been feeling well the night before. He threw up a couple times and complained of pain in his chest, which he thought was related to the exertion of vomiting. He left the house early that morning for his job with the city of Tucson but instead drove himself straight to the hospital.

(I'll give the unnamed hospital the benefit of the doubt that they do good work. They did mess up a couple times--not in his care, but in peripheral matters.)

He was in surgery by 7 a.m., but for whatever reason, the hospital didn't call Lucy until noon, and when they did, the first question the woman asked Lucy was, "Do you know where your husband is?" Danny had a couple surgeries that day and was listed as "critical and unstable." It was a long night.

The next day, I had to go to St. David for an article I was writing. On the way back into town, I stopped at the hospital to see Danny. I sat in the ICU waiting room for an hour or so, but none of the relatives showed up. Finally, I went to ask. A volunteer at the desk said, "Oh, he's been released." I thought that was especially good news. I knew they did that with mothers and their newborns, but not with heart-attack patients.

Relieved, I went on to Green Fields to watch my senior ballplayers graduate. When I got home, there was a frantic message that Danny had been transferred to UMC and was in emergency surgery with the legendary Dr. Jack Copeland handling the tools. I got to UMC just in time to hear Dr. Copeland's assistant laying out the options to Lucy. All were grim, but the least so was to remove his damaged-beyond-repair heart and put him on an artificial one as he awaited a transplant.

It was done in what turned out to be an all-night procedure. Lucy and the kids were given the use of a special waiting room just off the ICU ward. We thought it was cool until we later found out it's for families of patients who don't have the best chance of making it through the next 24 hours.

He made it through that night, and he's still hanging in. He's doing quite well, considering that he has the 21st-century equivalent of an oil pump in his chest. His daughter, Stephanie, celebrated her 20th birthday in the waiting room, and Lucy and Danny's 23rd wedding anniversary passed last week with little more than prayers of thanks that he's still with us.

His situation is made more difficult by the fact that he has O-negative blood. UMC ran short during his multiple surgeries, and his wait on the transplant list will certainly be lengthened.

If you have O-negative blood, why don't you donate a pint? If you have any kind of blood, why don't you donate a pint? One of my in-laws, who is highly educated and should know better, refuses to donate blood, because she says that doing so makes the new blood come in "thicker," thus leading to weight gain. She uses the coincidence that I donate blood all the time and my weight as proof positive of her assertion. (This same person says that a pregnant woman shouldn't go outdoors during an eclipse.)

I'll let you know what happens. I told Danny that when he finally gets out, he and I will go shopping together.

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