|Saturday, August 25, 2007|
Giving the gift of Life
If you’ve read my blog or Web site before, you know that my husband and I have been long-time supporters of the American Red Cross – even before I worked for the organization (Jan. 2004-Apr. 2007). One important way we contribute is through voluntary blood donations. My husband and I became ongoing donors after our first donation in Feb. 2003, when I convinced him we should donate blood for Valentine’s Day. This is no small feat for him as he is quite phobic about both needles and blood – particularly when either is going into or coming out of him.
I say “ongoing” rather than “regular” because I don’t want to claim what I consider to be the valiant title of “regular blood donor” by implying that we donate every 56 days. That’s the period of time in which you’re physically able to give again – you are eligible every eight weeks, which is up to six times in a year. There are many people who do so – like clockwork – and I hold them in high regard.
Unfortunately, the best of intentions can get waylaid when things come up or, in my case, go down. Being a woman and a vegetarian, my iron is not always at a sufficiently high level to donate. I have to pay close attention to my diet, take supplements and schedule donation appointments carefully to push me over the line that I am generally at or just slightly below (the hematocrit reading must be at least 38 to give). Mine is never low enough to be a health problem (like full-blown anemia) – just not high enough to give. This means that we usually give more like three or four times a year.
We hadn’t donated since moving home to Cleveland this past March. Not that we didn’t want to, there just seemed to be something always getting in the way – busy with the new house, schedule conflicts, illness, etc. Most blood collection organizations will tell you that it is a problem all too common in today’s busy households, particularly in the summer months when vacations and the like add to the mix.
Several times over the last few months we talked about giving but hadn’t yet. Then, last weekend, we saw signs for a Red Cross bloodmobile at a local mall that included the alert headline: “Blood Emergency.” We decided it was time. It wasn’t until we pulled into the parking lot that we noticed the signs for the bloodmobile/drive said “this Monday.” Not to let our good intentions lapse yet again, we decided to go home and schedule appointments online (www.givelife.org). As we were discussing it, I made a profound realization – a connection that surprisingly I hadn’t made sooner.
On Aug. 9, my husband’s Uncle Tom was involved a terrible accident. He was on his motorcycle turning left at a light when someone ran the red light and struck him. He sustained life-threatening injuries, including a compound fracture of his thigh bone, the degloving of his (upper) leg and a nicked artery along with other trauma and contusions. At the hospital, he received blood transfusions while emergency procedures were performed.
As we talked about making the appointments, it struck me that Tom had received blood from someone who took the time to donate it. All the times I had said it (and don’t get me wrong, I always believed it), it had never hit home quite the way it had when I thought of and saw photos of Tom in the hospital’s ICU – when you give blood, you give the gift of life.
See, scientists can’t manufacturer human blood; there’s no way to grow it, replicate it or compel people to provide it. The only way to keep an adequate supply of healthy blood available for those who may need it when they need it, like Tom did, is for people to give it voluntarily.
When I go today to donate – and hopefully I’ll be iron-fortified enough to do so – I still won’t be thinking about the people who might receive my blood. I’ll spend that hour thinking about and being grateful for the other people – those whose gift is helping save Tom’s life.
In less than an hour, you can do something that can save someone’s life – it’s a gift you give of yourself, literally, to a friend or even a stranger. Give the gift of life – give blood.
Post-Donation Update: That's right "post-donation"! My hemocratic reading was 38, so I was able to give - hurray! That's the update.
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