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Giving the Gift of Life
Published By: Manila Standard | August 18, 2020
A young resident fulfills an aspiration through SMDC The Good Guys’ bloodletting project
On the morning of the bloodletting at Sun Residences, 21-year-old Anna Veronica ‘Nikki’ Niebres felt jittery but somewhat giddy. Her mind was filled with many questions. Would the needle hurt? Would she have enough blood to donate? Was she in tip-top shape this time?
Donating blood was always on her wish list. She’d witnessed how invaluable blood donations were when a cousin got diagnosed with leukemia.
Nikki, an electronics and communications engineering graduate waiting to take the board exam, always had an inclination toward volunteerism. She and her three siblings grew up with their Mama telling them, “Maganda ang nagbibigay kahit walang kapalit.” This mantra would be put into practice at home when her family would donate essential goods to orphanages and calamity survivors. Early this year, her family donated groceries for the victims of the Taal Volcano eruption. Nikki couldn’t put a finger on this value but she felt it was important for her to help others when the situation called for it.
She dreams big as much for others as for herself. She constantly reminds herself that she wants to not just be an engineer but also a compassionate human being, especially in dire times. She once volunteered to be one of the cleaners of their town’s palengke in a cleaning project. In high school in Ateneo de Naga, she participated in charity work in an orphanage and in other activities that would inculcate the value of being of service to the community among the students. She has an unwavering desire to do more. “A kind gesture can reach a wound that compassion can heal,” is a quote from life coach Steve Maraboli that strongly resonates with her.
Becoming a blood donor turned out to be not as easy as she thought it would be. She missed her first attempt to donate. She tried again but was determined to be underweight. She was a habitual late-night sleeper, a no-no for a blood donor. She attempted a third time but stress from school activities gave rise to another health issue. It was one bad reason after another. Then, one day, on the elevator she read about an announcement of a bloodletting activity at Sun Residences in Quezon City. Finally, another chance, and at a very crucial time when the world is struggling to save hundreds of thousands of lives! Nikki was inching closer to checking off a task on her wish list.
The bloodletting activity is spearheaded by SM Development Corporation (SMDC) in partnership with the Red Cross and the Philippine Blood Center.
It is part of The Good Guys campaign, which aims to nurture communities across SMDC developments towards building happy, healthy, secure and thriving neighborhoods. In the process, it also fosters altruism among residents so they help not only SMDC residents, but also outside communities. The bloodletting activity was initiated immediately after the lockdown was modified to a General Community Quarantine in July. To date, the initiative has turned over more than 200 bags to the Department of Health. It has gone to eleven properties – Sun, Light, Jazz, Princeton, South, Grace, Shell, Sea, Mezza II and Trees Residences – with the aim to cover all residences in the metro. With each new bloodletting activity, the number of participating residents in each development increases. It has been attracting more and more blood donors like Nikki.
From the balcony of her Sun Residences unit on the 24th floor, Nikki gazes at the sparkling pool reflecting the light-orange hue of sunrise, excited for the coming bloodletting activity. Cars and people would be weaving in and out of the tiny streets, with the busy city serenely laid out before her. Her parents had laid out her and her siblings’ future when they acquired the unit in 2010. Her father, a seaman, foresaw his kids moving to Manila for college and thought that purchasing a unit close to the universities was a good investment. It was in its pre-selling stage then but her father knew that Sun Residences would be perfect for the children when they went to college. Her father was right: they were able to secure for their kids a home-away-from-home that was safe, convenient and supportive of the lifestyle of college students. It has given Nikki and her siblings access to the world with the mere press of an elevator button.
Every day for almost 5 years, Nikki rode a jeepney to attend her engineering classes at Mapua, which is just a stone’s throw from home. At the end of the day, she would be home, lining up at the elevator and exchanging hellos with fellow residents. For the next few years, Sun Residences would be home to Nikki and her siblings, probinsiyanas transferred from the province to the big city. They would experience the conveniences of having a mall just an elevator ride away. These days, when not reviewing for her board exam, she works out at the gym, goes swimming, binges on Netflix or listens to classical music. On days when she needs to focus for her board exam, she can be found at Sun’s WiFi-equipped lobby in the company of other student residents collectively pursuing academic success.
The day that she’d been waiting for had come. Nikki made sure to follow the instructions of her elder sister Danica, a medical technologist. Danica gave her advice on how to prepare herself for the bloodletting – eat well, drink enough water, sleep early and be well-rested.
“Kung sino man ang recipient ng dugo ko, sana mabuhay siya.” Those words coursed through her mind when blood started flowing out of her veins.
This would be a new lease on life for her prospective recipient. This bloodletting activity is special for her because it is for the benefit of COVID-19 patients. To be able to extend a lifeline at this most critical time is something she will always treasure.
Around her, there are about thirty people under “suero”, including her sisters. They are her brethren, her Good Guys community – kindred souls giving a bit of themselves without expecting anything in return, as her mother is wont to say.
Her last drop of blood is collected and her fear of the needle is gone. She’s back on her feet with a happy heart, a smile etched on her face. She can’t wait to do it all over again.