Her most cherished gift was more time
Julia Moore had a last precious holiday season with her late husband because of blood, stem cell and financial donors
As a hospital respiratory therapist, Julia Moore was accustomed to busy shifts on the front line during the holidays. But when her husband Steve suddenly became ill in 2002, nothing mattered more than spending the holiday season as a family.
Julia thanks supporters of Canada’s Lifeline for giving her young family an extra year ― including one more treasured family Christmas ― with her now-late husband. She’s sharing her family's story this holiday season to spread the message that making a charitable gift to Canadian Blood Services can help recruit future blood donors, so that other families can also enjoy the gift of time with loved ones.
Blood transfusions helped from the earliest days of illness
Julia and Steve met on a blind date set up by a close mutual friend. After they got married, it became a tradition for them to celebrate their anniversary at the restaurant where they had that first date. It was during one of those anniversary dinners that Julia first noticed Steve wasn’t himself. She remembers him saying he felt tired and needed to go home.
Just days later, Steve was admitted to the hospital in dire need of blood. Tests showed an incredibly low level of hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to the body’s organs and tissues. He was given two units of red blood cells almost immediately.
“While I had given emergency blood products to help my own patients before, nothing can prepare you for the day when your loved one is put in that same situation,” Julia says. “I remember feeling very uncertain about what this would mean for our young family, but what I knew for sure was that blood donors were the reason Steve survived that first crisis.”
Shortly thereafter, Steve was diagnosed with acute monocytic leukemia. Patients battling this blood cancer can rely on up to eight blood donors a week. Many also need a stem cell transplant to survive.
When cancer and an epidemic collide
Julia remembers how courageous Steve was in the early days of his cancer journey. He even managed to regularly make her and her two young boys laugh and smile. But his battle was further complicated by the onset of the SARS epidemic in 2003. As a cancer patient, he was especially vulnerable to infection.
“Viruses and immunocompromised people do not mix,” says Julia. “Steve was put in reverse isolation and I became the only visitor permitted to see him. This was hard on our whole family, but it made the time we spent together at home that much more precious.”
When Julia reflects on Steve’s treatment while he was in isolation, she says it’s not so different from what she sees today as a front-line respiratory therapist. While she typically works in a hospital operating room, she was redeployed to other critical care areas throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Julia has intubated COVID-19 patients and administered blood products to give their hearts and lungs a break while their bodies battle the virus. In the emergency department, she has stood beside patients receiving life-saving transfusions — without any family nearby to comfort them.
“I consider it a blessing that I was able to be with Steve during his own treatment, even if it meant spending most of my days in a hospital,” she says. “The COVID-19 pandemic reminds me that the time my family got with Steve was a real gift that not everyone is granted.”
Countless blood donors, and eventually a stem cell transplant from Steve’s brother, gave that gift to Julia. She also knows that such generous donors are joined by equally compassionate financial supporters, who are also doing their part to keep Canada’s Lifeline strong. When someone chooses to donate financially to Canadian Blood Services, they help give recruitment efforts a boost in times of great need ― including pandemics and epidemics ― and fuel world-class research in transfusion and transplantation medicine.
Julia Moore and her late husband, Steve Moore. Steve received multiple blood transfusions and a stem cell transplant to help him battle acute monocytic leukemia in the early 2000’s.
“During the holiday season, many people are looking for ways to make a difference for Canadian patients. Julia’s story reminds us that financial donations to Canada’s Lifeline play an important role in that,” says Margaret Miedema, director of philanthropy at Canadian Blood Services.
“It’s not lost on me that financial donors played a role in Steve’s treatment, and that’s why I wanted to speak up,” says Julia. She wants people to know that whether or not they are able to donate blood or join the stem cell registry, financial giving is another way to help patients.
An unforgettable holiday
Blood transfusions and a stem cell transplant gave Steve and Julia more time at home with the children. There were more meals around the table as a family, more birthdays together, and even another anniversary dinner for Steve and Julia. But Steve’s last Christmas in 2002 remains one of the family’s most precious memories.
“The boys unwrapped hockey jerseys from me and Steve that year,” Julia recalls. “We didn’t have a ton of money at the time, so it was a huge deal that the boys got those jerseys.”
The Colorado Avalanche and Detroit Redwings jerseys were precious gifts to Julia’s sons during their last holiday with Steve. They have since been passed down to Julia’s two granddaughters, Chloe and Aubree and remain symbolic of special memories.
Both Steve and Julia were shift workers, with Julia at the hospital, and Steve working as a correctional officer before he got sick. For them, the holidays weren’t about any one day of the year, but rather the time they got to spend together.
“The boys never forgot that Christmas, and those jerseys are a symbol of good memories,” says Julia. Today, it’s Julia’s two granddaughters who wear those precious reminders.
Continuing Steve’s legacy as a blood donor
During his life, Steve was a proud blood donor. He made more than 40 blood donations and also encouraged many of his friends and family to donate blood. Julia also donates blood and encourages her health care colleagues to do the same, in part to honour Steve and others like him.
“I am O-negative, the universal donor. I give because I’ve seen first-hand that my blood can help anyone, especially in emergencies,” she says. “I’ll never forget the day I had to administer 24 units of blood ― more than double one’s blood volume ― after someone experienced a trauma incident. Blood products are the reason many patients get to see another day.”
In fact, every 60 seconds, someone in Canada needs blood. Every year, about 100,000 new blood donors are needed to keep Canada’s Lifeline strong. Financial donations help us recruit the donors of the future by giving our national recruitment efforts and initiatives in blood, plasma, stem cells and organs and tissues an extra boost.
Sadly, Steve passed away at home in July 2003, shortly after his family learned that he had developed a new cancerous tumour. What continues to bring Julia comfort, even years later, is the knowledge that donors of all kinds gave her family the incredible gift of more time.
“A loved one can stay with their family for many more years or just a short amount of time when they are supported by Canadian Blood Services donors,” says Julia. “Thanks to them, we were given another anniversary, more family birthdays and one more cherished holiday season together. For that and more, I truly cannot express the depth of my appreciation.”
This holiday season, families across Canada are counting on life-saving transfusions and transplants to provide more time with their loved ones. Financial donations to Canadian Blood Services can help to make this possible, by giving our national recruitment efforts a boost in times of great need and by helping fuel research that will change tomorrow. Become a financial donor this holiday season and support families like Julia’s by visiting give.blood.ca/giftoftime.