A lot of people don’t believe in fate — after all, they say, why put your future into the hands of something so abstract when you can just decide it for yourself? They’ll tell you fate exists solely in fairy tales. But what if something happens that’s so coincidental, so one-in-a-million, so miraculous, that it borders on being, well, fateful?
One couple learned firsthand just how miraculous life can get, especially when a deathly experience and true love were thrown into the mix. For them, one generous act proved that karma — and maybe even fate — certainly works in mysterious ways.
Born in the Taiwanese city of Hsinchu, Lin Xiaofen dreamt of living a big life in a bustling city. In Lin’s eyes, very little happened in Hsinchu, let alone those aforementioned, one-in-a-million twists of fate.
With this dream in mind, Lin packed up and set her eyes on a new life in Taipei, Taiwan’s capital. The city of 3 million people was fast-paced and hectic, certainly different from the more tranquil life Lin lead in Hsinchu.
But she adapted quickly, and soon, Lin mastered the life of a city dweller. Everything seemed to be falling into place…until disaster struck. Seemingly out of the blue, Lin collapsed!
She was rushed through the busy city streets to the hospital, where she swiftly fell into a coma. Lin went from being happy and healthy to unconscious and seriously ill.
When Lin stabilized enough to wake up from her coma, she was finally given some information: she was shocked to discover her illness was connected to a traumatic event that happened years before.
See, Lin was once in a horrific car accident and had lost a significant amount of blood. Still, she’d hoped the traumatizing event was behind her. But now, she found herself in a hospital bed, surrounded by unanswered questions.
It turned out that Lin had developed a blood disorder because of the car accident — and she needed 10 units of blood and 2 units of isolated platelets to survive. Her body had lost its ability to clot blood, and she was in critical condition. If she were anywhere else, she would’ve been out of luck.
But she wasn’t anywhere else. She was in Taiwan, the nation known for having the highest blood donation rate in the world. Thanks to generous strangers, Lin was transfused the blood she needed, and soon after recovered. She thought she could return to her life in Taipei as it used to be.
But she couldn’t get her ordeal out of her mind. “If it wasn’t for this blood, I might not be here anymore,” Lin has said. Suddenly, the plans Lin had laid out for herself shifted. She knew Taipei could no longer be her home. Instead, she had somewhere else in mind.
She returned to Hsinchu to take over her family’s business. Away from the hectic energy of Taipei, Lin hoped being back in her hometown would help her relax and recover fully. She didn’t know how exciting her laid-back life in Hsinchu would become.
Reach To Teach
Seven years passed, and Lin’s life had taken on a slower but calmer pace. She ran her family’s business and was happy enough — until she crossed paths with a rice dumpling seller named Lian Zhicheng.
Though Lin and Lian had once lead very different lives, they quickly became friends. They had a connection neither of them had ever experienced before, and it wasn’t long before romance blossomed between them. Still, it was clear that their relationship was unique.
Lian described their connection as almost “telepathic.” The pair shared a strong bond that existed beyond friendship and even romance. Indeed, their connection was far deeper than either of them knew.
Lian soon shared with Lin one of his secret passions: donating blood. He’d been doing since he was 20 years old and was shocked to hear of Lin’s traumatic experience with blood loss and illness.
Lian shared with Lin that he gave blood in hopes of saving someone’s life, and this thought prompted Lin to begin a nearly impossible task: find the person whose blood saved her own life. But due to confidentiality laws in Taiwan, the search appeared to be fruitless.
But she was determined. She saw how dedicated people like Lian were to helping others, and wanted to thank someone for the blood flowing through her veins that gifted her a second chance at life. She kept at the search and eventually received a shock.
Out of all the millions of people who donate blood in Taiwan each year, the blood Lin received came right from Hsinchu! The person who saved her life could’ve been sitting next to her on the bus, or standing near her on the sidewalk. The possibilities were astounding — but not as astounding as what she learned next.
“When they told me it was a Mr. Lian from Hsinchu, I felt surprised,” Lin reflected. Lin discovered the blood that saved her life had been donated not from a stranger on the streets of Hsinchu, but by her very own boyfriend! When he found out the truth, Lian was floored.
“I urge everyone to donate blood, because there is a chance [that you could] save your future wife,” Lian advised jokingly. He may have said it in jest, but the story is just too miraculous to ignore.
The pair’s connection truly goes beyond skin and bone. Since going viral, Lin and Lian have continued to share their story in hopes of inspiring others to donate blood. After all, who knows whose life you could be saving?
This was a credo 81-year-old James Harrison of Australia lived by, too. When scientists determined his blood contained a vital, rare antibody he rolled up his sleeve more than anyone else on the planet.
In fact, James was given the nickname “The Golden Arm.” While this may sound like a nonsensical moniker, the story behind his nickname is absolutely inspirational.
The story starts in the early 1950s, when James was only 14 years old. He fell ill and needed emergency lung surgery. After hours-long operations, 2.5 gallons of blood transfusions, and endless medications, James couldn’t believe it: he survived.
Although he was scared of needles, James knew from that moment on he wanted to be an organ and blood donor. When he became of legal age, he immediately began working on his goal and searched for the nearest location to donate blood.
He found a local Red Cross Center in Sydney, where he was asked if he wanted to donate whole blood, plasma, or just platelets. He was told he could not donate whole blood as often as he wanted, but he could at least donate plasma every few weeks.
After about a month, he was called in by the center. He was nervous, but he went right in. The doctor who met with him began by asking: “Sir, have you heard of Rhesus disease?”
James didn’t have Rhesus disease. In fact, it’s found only in pregnant mothers and fetuses, and it causes the baby to suffer from anemia, jaundice, brain damage, or even death.
Rhesus disease occurs when a mother’s blood and the baby’s blood are incompatible due to the Rh level in the father’s blood (the factor that makes your blood type + or -). If an Rh- mother’s blood crosses with her Rh+ baby’s blood, it can attack the child’s red blood cells.
“In Australia, up until the 1960s, there were literally thousands of babies dying each year,” explained Jemma Falkenmire, a spokesperson of the Australian Red Cross Blood Service. “Women were having numerous miscarriages and babies were being born with brain damage.” So what did this have to do with James?
Luckily, certain people have the antibodies for this disease swimming in their bloodstream — and James is one of them! As soon as he found out, he made it his life’s mission to donate plasma almost every week, though always looking away because of a strong fear for the syringe.
“The Red Cross and Australia can never thank a man like James enough,” said Ms. Falkenmire in an interview. “It’s unlikely we will ever have another blood donor willing to make this commitment.”
Wall Street Journal
But there was someone even closer to home who saw James for the hero he is. His own daughter, Tracey Mellowship, fell within the 17% of Australians suffering from Rhesus disease during her pregnancy.
She was given a transfusion of her own father’s blood and brought to the world a beautiful baby girl. James couldn’t be happier that he could save his own granddaughter (front) with his “golden arms.”
In 2018, James’ story was in the news again, although this time it was for a sad reason. He had reached the age of 81, the limit for donating blood in Australia. On May 11, he made his very last donation: number 1,173. He wished he could keep donating, but couldn’t believe his ears when he was told how many lives he’d saved.
Subel Bhandari / Newscom
James’ blood was used to cure Rhesus disease so often that he had saved over 2.4 million unborn babies, winning him the Medal Of The Order Of Australia, as well as the Guinness World Record for most blood donated in a lifetime.
“Every ampoule of Anti-D ever made in Australia has James in it. I cry just thinking about it,” Robyn Barlow, the program coordinator who recruited Mr. Harrison and who celebrated his last donation with him, said.
So what now? Does the end of James’ era means the Rhesus babies are doomed? Don’t worry: although the antibody gene is rare, he wasn’t the only one with the miracle cure in his veins. There are currently 160-200 known Australians who are donating the special plasma to save future babies.
Donating blood is an easy thing to do. Many schools and businesses organize blood drives where you can donate blood without the commute. There are even buses that travel through cities to collect from anyone who is ready to donate.
“Saving two million is hard to get your head around, but if they claim that’s what it is, I’m glad to have done it,” James said with a smile. “I guess you can blame me for the increase in population.”