At 26 years old, Keith Bloomer found he could do something he didn’t do as a kid.
“I burped a lot,” Bloomer told the Warwick Rotary Club Thursday.
A few people laughed, but they soon stopped.
The burps, shortness of breath and blue fingertips were symptoms of something more troubling. Bloomer didn’t think there was anything particularly wrong, but his parents insisted he visit a doctor. Doctors discovered his lungs were operating at 50 percent and diagnosed scleroderma. He was placed on oxygen, but his condition deteriorated over the next two years and he was told his only hope was a double lung transplant. That was 2008 and, amazingly, the very day he decided to register for a transplant, a donation became available.
Bloomer imagined he would be on a waiting list for years, but suddenly he was in an operating room. Forty-two days later he was released from the hospital.
Bloomer no longer needs an oxygen pack and, as he likes telling, he can really play hide and seek with his daughter. Bloomer can’t work but he does volunteer for the Rhode Island Blood Center and he tells his story whenever he can.
On Thursday, the center’s bloodmobile made a stop at the Rotary Club luncheon at Chelo’s Restaurant. Even before the meeting, members were giving blood. By the afternoon, club members had easily surpassed the 13 pints collected in last year’s club drive.
“I’m living proof of what blood can do,” said Bloomer.
He did not know how many pints were needed for the lung transplants, but he had bleeding stomach ulcers following the operation and he received a number of transfusions.
In order to meet demand, the center needs 280 pints daily. Donations typically drop off during the winter months, and this year’s succession of storms has put a crimp in donations, although a drive at the Crowne Plaza last Monday brought in an amazing 380 pints.
Now 42, Bloomer can’t say what his future will bring. There is no cure and there is no predicting if he might again find himself short of breath. But he has had a second chance and he wants to make sure others do, too.