I just had to fight my own villains: fear of pain, uncertainty and stress.
The bell rings, finishing the lesson. There’s only one thought in my head: return home as fast as possible. Today’s episode of Spider-Man starts at 2PM! I tell my folks to keep quiet as I focus on the adventures of my beloved superhero. I am totally bewitched by anything he says or does.
This was my typical afternoon back in my childhood days. Sadly, the 1994 show had only 65 episodes and the series’ finale left some plots unresolved. There was Spider-Man Unlimited after that, in 1999, but it was a completely different story altogether, with the protagonist himself being the only thing it had in common with the previous show. My next discovery was comic books. Too bad they were hard to get in Poland, especially for a teenager.
Over time, though, many issues started appearing online, and I finally gained access to Spidey’s new exploits. I started with Amazing Fantasy #15, dating back to 1962. Naturally, my interest in Spider-Man waned over the years, but what got stuck in my head was uncle Ben’s motto:
“With great power comes great responsibility.”
I remembered these words when I was an adult organizing blood donation among speedway team fans with a group of friends. Something urged me to donate my blood, too, even though I was unsure as to how I would react to a 15-minute-long procedure. I felt a little stressed, afraid even, but then a thought came to my mind:
“You always wanted to be like Spider-Man, a hero ready to drop everything to save people, and yet you’re chickening out?”
Once everything was over, I felt proud that I just helped someone.
A year later I decided to join DKMS (Deutsche Knochenmarkspenderdatei, which means German Bone Marrow Donor Center), an international foundation focused on fighting cancer and other diseases of the circulatory system. I had no idea what I was signing up for, and I quickly forgot that I even volunteered.
Years later, I’m just doing my thing at work when I get an email from DKMS if my still interested in donating bone marrow. I decide to take my sweet time before I reply, as I want to read more about the process. But all of a sudden they give me a phone call. Turns out I have a genetic twin out there somewhere, and this person needs my help immediately!
Lots of thoughts cross my mind. First — how should I break the news to my wife, unaware that I signed up as a potential donor? I didn’t have a family back when I volunteered, but now that I started one, things are totally different. How is the donation process going to affect my health? Is it going to have an impact on my family life? Will my wife have to face the consequences of a decision I made a long time ago?
So, I tell her what’s about to happen, and her reaction surprises me. She congratulates me for being willing to save someone’s life.
I reach out to DKMS, as I have like a million questions. I get the necessary tests done. The most difficult part is probably the abdomen injection of drugs that are to prepare me for the bone marrow harvesting process. This causes flu-like symptoms, such as weakness and drowsiness. My immune system is weakened and I have to be extra careful not to get COVID-19.
Harvesting bone marrow is completely painless, but painstakingly long. You have to endure a 3-hour-long procedure without moving a single muscle. Better have a good movie/TV show/audiobook or at least some music at the ready! Even though I’m not sufficiently prepared, a nurse helps me a great deal by putting headphones over my ears and adjusting my body position. If I ever happen to be a donor again, I’ll be sure to bring along a stand for my phone so that I don’t have to hold it by myself all this time.
Once it’s all over, I am told that I can write something on the big wall in the waiting room. It can be something to inspire others, anything goes, really. Reading all this really cheered me up when I was waiting for my turn.
I pick up the pen. My message is inspired by the hero who directed me to this path. And so I write:
And this is where the story ends. I’m waiting for updates on how my genetic twin’s doing.
I learned that when you set the date for the procedure, not one, but two days are booked. If for some reason there isn’t enough material harvested on the first day, you need to gather more the next.
Fortunately, I followed the instructions and took the necessary meds beforehand, so we were done on the first day. Too bad I couldn’t learn much about the recipient of my donation, but I keep my fingers crossed for them, and I did everything I could to save them. Maybe we’ll get to meet each other someday? All I know is that I regret nothing, and if I get another call from DKMS, my only problem will be finding those old animated Spider-Man shows to watch online during the wait.
Peter Parker has a tendency to hold onto guilt, an issue common among super heroes. But he’s 100% certain about why he dons his iconic costume. It’s because he’s there for others. This quote sums this up perfectly:
“When I think of Spider-Man? I think, no matter what…he’s never going to stop helping people.”
And again, my childhood hero has been a great inspiration to me.Back