“Your blood is on its way to a patient in need in Norfolk, VA” was the primary message in an email I recently received. I did not know that the Red Cross would tell me where my blood would go, but I found myself feeling very proud of my platelets and wishing them the best. I am (rather ashamed to say) a first time blood donor. Maybe some of the awe I feel becomes old hat, but I hope not. I hope I never grow weary of doing good things for the community.
My blood’s journey actually started in October when my son came home with a permission slip to allow him to participate in an American Red Cross blood drive. Being a parent that encourages my children to make their own (guided) decisions, I signed it and felt a sense of pride that he had taken this opportunity to give to others as soon as he was old enough to do so.
Approximately two months later we received a phone call from the Red Cross thanking my son for his donation and informing him that he was “O-negative.” The significance of this blood type is that it is the universal blood type, often used in trauma cases when blood-typing is a delay that cannot be afforded. Approximately 8% of Caucasians have this blood type (that drops to 1% in Asians), so there is a great need. The availability of O-negative blood can literally mean life or death because it can be used in trauma situations and because O-negative people can only receive O-negative blood in any situation. Therefore, the Red Cross felt it necessary to inform him that he was eligible to give again (about every two months) and that there was a conveniently located blood drive.
Since I had to transport my son to the blood drive, it only made sense that I would donate blood too. I scheduled appointments for the both of us at a church in Bunker Hill. When the day dawned, we arrived ready to be harvested. After taking our vitals and leaving us with a computer to answer some questions about health, recent travel, tattoo habits and sexual activities, we were placed on cots, and the draining began. Let me be clear on this, I do not like needles, and I do not like having blood drawn. I keep my blood in my body at every opportunity, and the very sight of it gives me the “heebie jeebies.” Careers such as nursing, phlebotomy and veterinary science are not for me. I had all of the standard reasons for not giving blood, and I am here to tell you, it just is not that bad. Once the needle was in, I didn’t feel or even see it. It was placed in a prone position so that I could not see the ever expanding bag of blood.
My bona-fide donor card arrived just the other day, letting me know that I’m type A+. About 33% of Caucasians have that blood type. Apparently, I am not the unique shining star my mother said I was. The good news is that common blood types are in demand because a larger percentage of the population requires them. My card will also be helpful to carry in my wallet because first responders can determine my blood type quickly in the event of an emergency.
But, the most exciting part was that email from the Red Cross telling me that my blood was needed in Norfolk, Va. I know nothing about the person who benefits from my blood. Maybe it is a child with a blood disease. Maybe it is a trauma patient in dire need. Maybe it is a drunk driver who caused the death of an entire van of puppies. I just do not know, but what I do know is that my son and I are looking forward to February when we can do it all over again. Because of our commitment, my 13 year old daughter has stated that she intends to join us as soon as she turns 16, the minimum age for donation.
I feel that this small thing, which takes about an hour of my day and is mildly uncomfortable, is such a small investment in saving a life. The Red Cross checks the need in your local community before sending your blood on a road trip. I am looking forward to the day that my email informs me that my blood is on its way to a patient in Martinsburg, West Virginia, and if it is you or a loved one, I hope it makes a difference. If you have never given blood, or would like to do so again, please keep an eye out for donation opportunities in our community. There is always a need.