The Bloodmobile is a Constant Reminder.
“Every time I see the red bloodmobile parked in the community, I am overwhelmed with emotion,” says Larry Eaddy. “Blood donations from people I’ll never know gave a part of themselves which enabled me to have a healthy, fulfilling life.” Wellness can open the mind to the wholeness of life, to be fully embraced. But we don’t always appreciate it until we come close to losing it. Eight years ago, Larry Eaddy’s health was threatened by a rare illness. He was 25 years old raising his son Lavonte.
Larry remembers visiting his parents in Greenville when his mother noticed a yellow tint in his eyes. He didn’t look well, but Larry dismissed her concerns. “I felt fine and I didn’t think there was anything wrong with me.”
But not long after, Larry lost his appetite and began to experience fatigue and pain. Laboratory tests determined he had autoimmune hepatitis. At the time, doctors told him the illness wasn’t an immediate threat to his health. A treatment plan was prescribed to reduce inflammation and suppress the immune system with medicine. Doctors wanted to monitor him periodically.
What is Autoimmune Hepatitis?
Autoimmune hepatitis is inflammation of the liver, and it can be chronic. It can occur from common virus infections or even excessive use of alcohol. The symptoms depend on which part of the body is attacked by the immune system. Antibodies damage organs when white blood cells attack the liver cells.
Larry continued to have problems. More tests showed his gall bladder wasn’t functioning and had to be removed. As his health deteriorated, Larry began to see a specialist. In January, 2005, he moved home to be near his parents, Larry and Darlene Eaddy.
“I had excruciating stomach pain, and lost a lot of blood from vomiting,” said Larry. “My immune system didn’t recognize my liver as part of my body.”
“It Really Does Save Lives. It Saved My Own.”
During this time, Larry received countless units of blood to offset what he was losing and to counter his growing antibodies. As the number of white blood cells overtook Larry’s red blood cells, his organs weren’t getting enough oxygen. Then, Larry’s blood vessels burst and he began to bleed internally. Doctors were concerned about an infection. With his liver failing, doctors said Larry had a year to live. The only real cure was a liver transplant.
“Blood donations from donors bought me time while I waited for a transplant,” says Larry. “I want everyone who donates blood to know that what they’re doing really does work. It really does save lives. It saved my own.”
In Awareness and Gratitude, a New Life Begins
On April 8, 2006, Larry received the phone call that a liver was available, a year and a half after his diagnosis. He traveled to Charleston immediately for the transplant. “I can remember waking up after the surgery feeling better immediately,” said Larry.
It took time for Larry’s body to heal. While he rested and recovered, he never forgot the generosity of strangers who gave him back his life. He made a plan to go back to school for a business and management degree with thoughts of raising his son near home.
Larry got busy with a new energy, with eyes and heart wide open. He was engaged in life with a centeredness he had not known before. And, that’s when he met Dawn.
“I wasn’t planning to go church that day, and Lavonte was with my parents. It was almost time for church to be let out, but I went in anyway. I saw my son sitting in the back of the church with my mom. I saw my friend working the sound booth, looking out the window. I saw Dawn stand up, and then I experienced a feeling I can’t explain.”
Life Moves Forward According to Higher Orders
Dawn and Larry had never carried on a conversation, but they knew of each other. Dawn was a mother of three kids, raising them on her own and working on her own life after marriage. Church was important to her. She had grown up with a mother as a preacher and her dad a deacon. On this particular morning, Dawn decided to leave her kids in children’s church and spend time with her mom worshipping.
“I was overcome by a sudden feeling in church, and that’s when I stood up,” said Dawn Eaddy. “When I did, Larry was the only person I saw. It was like we saw each other for the very first time. I felt God was prompting me that it was time for a change in my life, telling me I was ready.”
Larry and Dawn married on April 30, 2011. Dawn brought Mya (17), Maria (12) and Jason (10) to the marriage, and they immediately blended with Lavonte. (11).
At first, Larry was hesitant about telling Dawn his story. “I was nervous because I didn’t want to scare her,” said Larry. Dawn had heard that Larry had an amazing life story, which made their union all the more meaningful.
“We are in each other’s life for a reason,” said Dawn. “We’re not blood family but we feel like we are. We had our pictures made during our first year together. People who know nothing about us will say the kids look like their dad. We’re all so close.”
They also share Larry’s story with the kids, telling how blood donations and a liver donation gave him the life he has today. “They say, he did that for real?” says Dawn with a smile. “Mya, our oldest, really does understand the importance and plans to donate at her high school blood drive in Simpsonville.”
On a recent shopping trip to Bilo, Larry and Dawn saw the bloodmobile. Larry wanted to stop and talk to donors. He introduced them to Dawn.“I wanted to tell people how much it meant to me. I wanted to let them know that it does save lives. I know what I received, and the life they gave me means so much.”