I spent a lot of years donating blood on a regular basis.
It started when I was in college. The Red Cross would set up a bloodmobile on campus once each semester and I would sign up to give. That’s how I found out I’m A negative. Anyway, I even continued trying to give whole blood on a regular basis as often as I was able for a few years after college.
But then I moved to North Carolina and fell out of the local Red Cross’s system. And the good people of North Carolina had no idea that I was once a regular donor. So I never got calls from blood drives local to Raleigh encouraging me to give.
When I moved back to Virginia, somehow the Red Cross found out I was back in the area. I can only assume they have spies everywhere. They started asking me to give again. So I did. Why not?
And then things escalated. Turns out I was eligible to donate platelets, which is a different thing than giving the whole blood that you usually hear about in a typical blood drive. I’d heard of the process before. My aunt has been donating platelets for years. My understanding was that you’d go in for a couple hours while they draw blood out of one arm, run it through a machine, then pump it back in the other arm.
Again, I figured, why not? After all, if I’m able to do this one small thing and there’s a chance it could save lives, who am I to say no?
I was on a pretty regular schedule, donating platelets once or twice a month for a couple of years. But when I began my new career back in August, I decided it was time to take a break. I’d actually been thinking about taking a break for a while, to be honest. The new job just gave me a better excuse than the truth.
Truth was, I was tired. Don’t get me wrong, I liked being able to help people. They say that one donation of platelets can save up to three lives. I have no proof that my platelets have saved any lives. But I’d like to at least think that someone is doing a little better because I gave up a Saturday morning.
But I was tired of getting poked in the arms with needles. I was tired of feeling drained after donating. I was tired of going into the Red Cross and wondering if they were going to be able to find a good vein or not. So I quit.
Until last week. I saw a report on the news saying that there was a critical shortage in blood donations in recent months and that the Red Cross was at an all-time low. It may not be an all-time low, but that’s how my mind interpreted the report. It’s not good when hospitals are low on the blood they can use for transfusions. What if someone is in surgery and is suffering from blood loss? What if their blood type is A negative? What if they don’t have an extra pint of A negative because I didn’t step up to donate recently? See what I’m getting at?
After seeing the news, I decided I’d call and make an appointment. I didn’t care if it was for whole blood or platelets, I just wanted to help. Mary, the nice lady who has been setting up all my donation appointments for the last few years said that, since I was able to do platelets, that’s what we would do.
I went in this morning for the first time since August. It was everything I remembered. The part where the stick your finger to test the iron content of your blood still hurts the worst. They were able to find veins in both arms fairly easily. And I got to watch a movie while I sat there.
That’s one of the perks of being tethered to a vampire machine for twoish hours. I don’t know about other local donation centers, but the Blacksburg Red Cross has a vast array of DVDs to choose from. Today I went ’90s rom-com with You’ve Got Mail. And the timing was perfect. She pulled the needles out of my arms just before the end credits began to roll.
I write this to implore you, if you are able to give, do it. I can’t tell you to ignore the nausea if you’re squeamish about needles and/or the sight of blood, but if you can handle those things, please make an appointment with your local Red Cross and donate. The shortage in blood donations isn’t local to my part of the country. It’s global. Do it because it actually feels pretty good to know you could be saving someone’s life. Do it because someday you could be on the other end, in need of the blood that someone else was willing to step up and donate.
To find out how and where you can give locally, visit the Red Cross website, or call 1-800-REDCROSS.