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Beacon Senior News

Donating is in their blood: Family honors one man’s legacy by “paying it forward”

Aug 30, 2017 11:01AM ● By Melinda Mawdsley

Ed and Nancy Keddy, Thailand, 2007.

Ed Keddy lived with two lists.

The first was a compilation of medical diagnoses, dating back to 1979 when Ed was told he had “idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura,” or ITP—a blood disorder in which the immune system destroys the body’s platelets, leading to improper blood clotting.

The second was a log of countries he visited anyway.

Guess which list was longer?

Ed and Nancy in Ephesus, Turkey, 2008.

“He said he’d rather die on a trip than stay at home and be scared to go somewhere,” said Nancy Keddy, 78, Ed’s wife and traveling companion until his death in 2010.

More than seven years after Ed died of congestive heart failure, his story still resonates with his wife and the representatives of St. Mary’s Regional Blood Center.

He symbolized the lives that can be saved—and changed—through the simple process of donating blood.

Searching for treatment

Before Ed turned to others’ blood to boost his platelet count, he was a consistent donor himself. That ended in 1979 when he started experiencing heart trouble and was subsequently diagnosed with ITP.

Doctors took Ed’s spleen because a splenectomy had corrected the disorder in other patients. It didn’t work. By 1980, he needed heart bypass surgery or he had to stop working. He was 45.

Great Wall of China, 2005.

Although the surgery was successful, Ed experienced, continued bleeding afterward.

A hematologist treating leukemia patients in Albuquerque suggested Ed receive 48 units of platelets in 48 hours from donated blood. The bleeding stopped, and Ed returned to work until 1989, when he was able to retire.

He had other health problems during that time and signed up for an experimental immunoglobulin therapy study, a treatment using antibodies in plasma from donated blood to potentially strengthen an individual’s immune system.

But everything was a temporary fix.

Ed and Nancy loved to travel, so in 1995, they moved to Grand Junction for, among numerous reasons, its airport and train access and its medical facilities.

Seizing the day

For decades, Ed managed his ITP and heart problems thanks to healthy living, exercise and the use donated blood when necessary.

In May 2000, he had a massive heart attack.

“It was touch and go, but he came out of it,” Nancy said.

He had congestive heart failure. There was no reversing it.

In 2001, the couple decided it was time to resume traveling, one of their greatest passions. And the phrase about life being too short suddenly seemed truer than ever.

Initially, the couple stayed on the roads in North America.

“We were leery of flying,” Nancy said. “No one had prohibited it, but we were leery.”

Thailand, 2007.

Then, at a random yard sale, Ed picked up a 25-cent video about touring China on the Yangtze River with Victoria Cruises. They signed up for their own trip in 2005.

“That opened the floodgates,” said Nancy. “We thought of all the places we wanted to see.”

Ed wanted to go to Machu Picchu in Peru. To train and test Ed’s heart, the couple camped and walked nightly on Grand Mesa. In 2006, his doctor told him to go ahead with the trip.

In the three years that followed, they went to Egypt, Jordan, Thailand, Cambodia, Guatemala, Greece, Turkey, Spain, Portugal and Morocco.

Ed had just one rule. The couple went with organized groups so they could purchase insurance to cover expenses for sending his body back should he die overseas, Nancy said.

“In between trips, when I could, I was giving blood,” she added.

Paying it forward

Egyptian pyramids, 2006.

The life-prolonging effects Ed received from platelet infusions and immunoglobulin therapy, byproducts of donated blood, are why Nancy and her family remain committed to giving blood.

Her blood is O negative, a critical type that can be universally used, even on newborns.

“It’s become a pay-it-forward thing for her family,” said Danielle Moretti Martin, donor recruiter at St. Mary’s Hospital.

Since his passing, Nancy hasn’t stopped traveling. She’s been on an African safari, seen Cuba and explored South America’s Patagonia and Easter Island regions.

Nancy hasn’t stopped giving blood either and encourages anyone able to do the same. Donated blood gives people a new lease on life. Ed used that lease to its fullest.

How to donate blood

Donating blood takes about 30 minutes—more for select platelet donors. Prospective donors need to bring a driver’s license and knowledge of any medications they are on. They should be hydrated and eat a healthy meal before blood collection.

Additional questions will be asked upon arrival to verify eligibility before a trained phlebotomist draws blood.

Donated blood has a shelf life of 42 days, so the supply needs continual contributions.

“Blood can’t be manufactured,” Moretti Martin said. “It has to come from another person. To have [blood] replaced, you have to rely on the kindness of a stranger.”

Where to donate

St. Mary’s Blood Center 750 Wellington Ave., Entrance 22 Grand Junction

St. Mary’s Bloodmobile travels throughout the Western Slope to reach people who want to give blood. You can view St. Mary’s Bloodmobile schedule at www.sclhealth.org.

Call 298-2555 to confirm locations, dates and times.