Today, I gave blood for the very first time. I am 40 years old (just turned this week). It was no big deal TO do it. But, it was a big deal THAT I did it.
My client, the Avon Volunteer Fire Department (AVFD), has held three blood drives since we began working together. During the previous two – both on Good Friday, one in 2010 and one in 2011 – I kept saying, “I really should roll up my sleeve,” but couldn’t bring myself to do it. I’m not afraid of needles or pain – I’ve been stuck like a pincushion more times than I can count, and I had epidurals while I labored in childbirth with both my kiddos. My fear was that I would pass out in reaction to the blood loss. I. Do. Not. Like. Fainting.
According to the American Red Cross, every minute of every day, someone needs blood. That blood can only come from volunteer donors and it’s the mission of the American Red Cross to maintain a safe blood supply. Blood donors are part of a very select group – currently only three out of every 100 people in America donate blood.
“For members of the AVFD, saving lives comes with the territory and opportunities to help people can arise at any moment. Luckily, first responders aren’t the only people who can save lives – by donating a pint of blood to the American Red Cross, just about anyone can help.” I wrote that more than 18 months ago as part of a calendar listing we used to promote and draw donors to the first blood drive. Personally, I didn’t find meaning in it until this week.
We’ve been preparing for the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. I am fortunate to not know anyone who died that day. Although, I always think about the wonderful couple my husband and I met while honeymooning in Australia in October 2000. He was FDNY, she was a nurse, and they were Yankees fans. We spent one morning after breakfast sitting in a bar in Port Douglas watching Game 2 of the World Series. After returning to the United States, we didn’t stay in touch they way I’d hoped we would. Their names aren’t on the list of people who died, but for some reason I still wonder. Strange for me to do that, I guess.
So, from the time I decided to donate at my client’s 9/11 Weekend of Remembrance blood drive until the moment the needle went into my arm, little more than 36 hours had passed. I posted my decision on Facebook and think that helped hold me accountable. “Kudos to you for putting on your big-girl panties and going for it,” commented one of my friends. “You’ll be just fine.” How could I back out after that?!
After a hectic start to the morning (slowly waking up two hours before the blood drive began to shower, dress, and head over to the fire house only to learn a local television crew is already there and broadcasting live – extremely thankful for the news coverage but definitely wishing I’d had time to do my hair), I ate a bigger breakfast than I normally do, obeyed the wonderful AVFD volunteer who told me to drink some orange juice before signing in, and off I went. I went through the eligibility consultation and was cleared to donate. I will refrain from sharing the actual blood drawing details. But, suffice it to say … It. Was. E. Z.
As I sat having a snack and a bottle of water afterwards, I wondered, “Why did I wait so long to do this?” I became somewhat angry with myself and incredibly ashamed. “Why don’t more people donate?”
I understand there are people who are ineligible. And, there are many who feel physically or emotionally unable, though medically they qualify. I am sure there are even some religions that prohibit blood donation. But, to everyone else (and there are more than three people per every hundred who can handle this), I issue a challenge: Before 2011 is over, find a local blood drive, take an hour out of your day, and donate your own pint.
As long as a donor remains eligible, he or she can give blood every 56 days. Will I donate that frequently? I don’t know for sure – right now I am still caught between the high and exhaustion of today’s experience. Honestly, I do feel a little bit like I had the life sucked out of me. However, I will do it again. I saved a life today.