RIBC Volunteer and Life Touched by Blood Donation

For years Pat Emery has faithfully volunteered at the Churches of Riverside Blood Drives, a series of drives each year that rotates among churches in the community.

She admired the donors, understood the importance of what they did, but never so vividly than just two and a half years ago when her husband, Raymond, was the recipient of numerous blood products during intensive treatment for a disease that would prove fatal.

The experience, though tragic, only intensified Pat's understanding and gratitude of blood donors, recognizing that it is not always a life that's saved, but hope that's given.

"When I see all these people go to the blood drives and donate blood . when it came to my husband needing blood I certainly appreciated it even more," she said. "I saw all this blood they started giving him, red cells and platelets. I couldn't believe the pints of blood he received."

Today, Pat continues to volunteer at the Riverside churches drives, something she began doing in 1995 after a long career at the now defunct Almacs Groceries.

Raymond had been a frequent blood donor, but Pat's efforts to donate were often thwarted because she didn't meet the minimum weight requirement. She began volunteering some 13 years ago as her way of supporting blood donation.

At 75, Pat is the mother of four children and grandmother of nine grandchildren, ranging from six years old to 25.

Her home in the Riverside section of East Providence is comfortable and filled with memories of a marriage that was approaching 50 years. When Raymond died on June 1, 2006 at the age of 77, the couple was just two weeks shy of celebrating their 49th wedding anniversary.

Pat fills her memories with family, of dancing with Raymond, of his love of sports, and particularly the Boston Red Sox. She's thankful that Raymond saw his beloved Red Sox finally win a World Series a few years ago, and remembers that he attended Ted Williams last game, saving the scorecard and sending it to the Ted Williams Museum in Florida.

For Raymond, a retired postal worker, illness came on suddenly, an infection at first, one that was difficult to fight because he quickly learned that his immune system had been compromised when he was also diagnosed with acute leukemia.

Raymond was given only four to six weeks to live, Pat said, with one chance of survival through aggressive chemotherapy. He did well in a first round, but when he underwent a second round, Pat said, he experienced every side effect they warned against. In the end, and after eight weeks of treatment, he succumbed to kidney failure.

Not bitter, Pat remains grateful to blood donors, understanding how important blood products became during Raymond's treatment. "I think it's wonderful that anybody would give blood," she said. "When you're in the hospital setting, and I was there for eight weeks, you see what goes on. It's marvelous that people donate blood and help people."