The facts of everyone’s life frame who they become.
When I was six years old, my father developed rheumatoid arthritis. He was 33. I watched my young, strong, athletic father lose his ability to walk over three years. First slower, then with a cane and finally, he needed a wheelchair.
At that time (1971), hip replacement surgery was brand new. A hospital in New York City offered the surgery. First one hip, then the other. Doctors flew in from all over the country. We had over 300 blood donors – all our friends and family and friends of the family wanted to help.
The first surgery seemed to be a success, but in the second, he lost a lot of blood. Even though we had many donors, in those days, blood was taken from the “blood bank”. There was no dedicated donor blood.
My father contracted hepatitis from the blood that was tainted in the bank. They did not routinely test for that. Before my father became very sick, they snuck my sister and me in to see him at the hospital. I saw him walk unaided for the first time I could remember.
He died two weeks later from liver failure due to hepatitis.
My mother tried to make a claim. She was a 32-year-old widow with a nine-year-old (me) and a six-year-old, my sister.
We learned that blood is a service, not a product. It has special protections because it is necessary. You must prove gross negligence in order to sue successfully. Since it was not routine to test for hepatitis, the failure to do so was not gross negligence.
My father was the primary breadwinner, he was my knight in shining armor, and I was daddy’s little girl. His loss changed my life forever and in ways that continue to be immeasurable. I felt helpless as a nine-year-old. Ultimately, I chose a profession where, not only would I not be helpless, but where I could help others to reclaim their power.