I know the Red Cross has been in the news a lot lately for inappropriate use of hurricane sandy money. I know they were in the news a lot many years ago for mishandling Haiti relief money. So I don’t donate money to the Red Cross. Instead, I donate something I know they can handle – my blood.
When I was a senior in high school a student group was hosting a blood drive. I was so disappointed because I was 17 and couldn’t legally consent to the donation. I remember being jealous of one of my teammates who donated. (She was so paranoid our coach would find out. He expressly forbid us to donate because we had a meet that evening. Funny how our priorities change in time.) My freshman year of college another student group was hosting a blood drive and having always wanted to donate, I just walked in and donated. For some reason, I thought it was the coolest thing.
I went on to join the student group – Alpha Phi Omega community service fraternity – and volunteer at and donate in another 10 or so blood drives in college, and I’ve been continuing to donate ever since. To me it’s such a critical act, there’s such a pressing need, and it’s so easy. I’m also heavy enough (in this one case being heavier is a good thing) to give double red blood cells at a donation, making twice the impact.
At the June UNC drive featured above, I was recruited by the platelet recruiter to give platelets and this morning I made my second platelet donation. My blood type is in high demand for platelets and it turns out I have a super high platelet count, so they can get three transfusions out of one of my donations. Of course, they might have just been saying that to make me feel good and ensure I’d come back. So here are my super special platelets:
It takes almost three hours to get this tiny amount of platelets out of my body. They get separated from your red blood cells, which get pumped back into your body. You have to keep both arms perfectly still the whole time. But you get to watch a movie. My movie today, Snow White and the Huntsmen, started skipping and freezing and I was getting really frustrated not being able to do anything about it. Then I started thinking about the people who would be receiving these platelets and what they’ve gone through and suddenly I didn’t care about my movie anymore. I’m grateful to be on this side of the donation and I hope that if I’m ever on the other side, someone will give up their Saturday morning to give to me.
So I am grateful for the Red Cross. They take much needed resources from the people who have them and give them to the people who would die without them. And the nurses I’ve worked with do it with a smile. They make you feel loved. They make you feel important. They make sure you know you’re saving lives. And they give you snacks! Which is no fun if you’re Whole 30.
Donating blood and platelets also gives me a strange feeling of starting over. When you lose blood and platelets, your body has to make new ones and those fresh cells are good for you! At least I heard that on the John Tesh radio show one time. I’m going to continue to donate as often as possible as long as I’m able and I hope you’ll consider making many many donations too. As the Red Cross says, “The need is constant, the gratification is instant,” and, “The life you save could be your own.” Give blood!