Blood Relatives
Blood Relatives

By Gene Shelburne

The son born to Robert and Suzanne Massie was a normal baby in most respects. He had the correct number of fingers, toes, eyes, and ears. He was intelligent, probably a brighter-than-usual child. He cried, sucked, yowled, and wet his diaper just like other babies. Only one thing made Bobby Massie different. He was a hemophiliac. A bleeder.

Little did Bobby’s parents suspect how crushingly cruel that difference would be—the abuse they would suffer from doctors, the fear that caused schools to refuse to educate Bobby and made the couple’s friends forbid their children to play with the boy. They were unaware of the astronomical cost of braces, wheelchairs, and similar equipment, and worst of all, the ceaseless, often fruitless, and almost bankrupting search for blood.

To supply plasma for their son’s bleeding joints, the Massies worked continually in blood drives. In Journey, the Massies’ 1975 book, they tell how Bobby’s need for plasma soared as he grew up, rising from 39 transfusions in 1961 to 107 just six years later. Without the blood, Bobby’s knees and elbows soon would become frozen and useless. So they badgered friends and strangers for blood.

Sometimes the Massies became bitter, they admitted. Such as when Red Cross officials let a major advance in hemophilia therapy go down the drain. Or when drug companies immorally price-gouged them. And whenever fellow Americans seemed calloused to the woes of hemophiliacs.

But the Massies also had reasons for thanksgiving.

“There was a Russian friend of mine,” Sue Massie wrote, “who gave blood at Christmas ‘because that is all I have to give.’” Across the nation, thousands shared their blood. “Bobby might not be alive today,” Sue acknowledged, “but for this unseen, unsolicited sense of brotherhood.”

Christians gathered at the table surely understand this feeling, for we are tied together inseparably by an unsolicited gift of blood.

When we ask the Lord’s blessing upon our drinking from the cup of wine at the Lord’s Table, this means, doesn’t it, that all who drink it are sharing together the blessing of Christ’s blood? (1 Corinthians 10:16, The Living Bible).

Gene Shelburne has served as the pulpit minister at the Anna Street Church in Amarillo, Texas, for 49 years. He is senior editor of the Christian Appeal and his column “Cross Currents” appears in several newspapers, including the Amarillo Globe News. He has written four books, including The God Who Puts Us Back Together.

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