Friday, July 3, 2009

The Gift of Blood

Yesterday, I had a disturbing encounter with a woman who seemed to honestly not know why giving blood is a good thing. She appeared to believe that saving someone’s life is not a good enough reason to give blood.

I really hope that her saying to her 10-12 year old son “why would anyone want to do that?” was simply her way of stimulating thoughtful conversation with him. I really hope she was trying to get him to say what I was saying behind her, “because it saves people’s lives.” (She had a blank look at that answer.) I really hope that the mistake is mine in misinterpreting her question. I really hope (but doubt) that the ignorance is not hers in believing that the personal discomfort of a needle in the arm is a mere annoyance in the face of saving someone’s life with the red elixir. I really hope that the mistake is mine in failing to see her as trying to get her son to think critically about such an important gift. I really hope (but doubt) that the selfishness is not hers in believing that it is not her or anyone responsibility to help people besides themselves. I really hope that the mistake is mine in seeing the whole short exchange in a cynical light.

I cannot give blood, unfortunately. The first time I donated as a freshman at MSU, I allowed myself to sink into blissful oblivion and got really annoyed when the nurse put smelling salts under my nose to wake me up. I was trying to take a mini mind vacate-tion from the chaos that was my life at the time. The second time I tried to give blood, they told me not to come back. My body would only give up a partial unit. My veins gave up giving up the red with less than a half pint. They had to toss it, because they said that they can only use full units. They said that my veins weren’t able to perform as required.

I am thankful for people like my friend, John, who not only volunteers for the Red Cross, but also donates platelets and whole blood as often as possible. I am thankful because I have a partner who requires a weekly infusion of blood products in the form of Gama globulin in order to stay healthy, probably in order to stay alive. I am thankful because I had a friend in high school who relied on human insulin because his body wouldn’t respond appropriately to swine or synthetic insulin. I am thankful because a friend of mine who is dealing with cancer needs periodic blood transfusions in order to keep up her strength so that she can keep up with her beautiful children. I am thankful because the little old lady across the street had transfusions last week because her own blood was not doing its job on its own. I am thankful for people like John because I cannot give blood myself and I feel like he is giving of himself on my behalf.

For more information on giving blood, you can visit the website of the American Red Cross at:

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