Donating blood was never really my thing. In my 49 years I could’ve counted the number of times I donated on one hand. Though I knew people who made it a priority and admired them, I‘d never quite managed to join their ranks.
Until recently. In middle age I discovered a new desire to give, help and volunteer. So I walked into the local blood bank and offered them my arm. After filling out paperwork, reading more paperwork, and answering a lot of questions, they took some of my blood.
This was actually a big deal for me. Three years ago I ended up in the hospital for an entire month after a gallstone problem went horribly wrong. I had more needles put in me then than I ever care to remember. But memories fade, and although I still don’t like hospitals, donating blood was okay. Besides, they had juice and cookies.
The second time was easier. I got a little bolder and had 2 containers of orange juice plus a pack of cookies afterwards.
The third time on my way out I asked them about donating plasma. My reason was not entirely altruistic; I needed money. I remembered my sister telling me that she donated plasma for money a few times when her finances were tight. The nurse explained the procedure to me and said my veins were good enough. But she never mentioned money and I was too embarrassed to ask.
The fourth time I donated blood I still needed money, so I casually mentioned I was curious about plasma donating to the woman at the front desk when I arrived. She said, “If you want to donate plasma you can…but we’d sure hate to lose you from the ‘neo-nate’ list.” She took one look at my puzzled expression and said, “No one’s told you that you have ‘neo-nate’ blood?”
Turns out my blood is unusual. I knew I was O positive, which is sometimes called a “universal donor”. I’m also CMV factor negative. That’s the special part. CMV is Cytomegalovirus. About 85% of people have been exposed to CMV. It doesn’t cause significant problems in healthy people, but can be disastrous for infants or in cases of compromised immunity. So my blood…was being used to help newborns!
In that moment, my entire attitude changed. The money I needed was entirely forgotten. My blood was for babies. I told the woman forget the plasma, I’d stick with the babies. I told all my friends about my “baby blood”. The strength of my reaction might have been because newborns are so helpless, I don’t know. I do know that in that moment my attitude changed from “what can I get” to “I’m thrilled to give”. And I have never missed a chance to donate blood since then. Each time I leave they give me a card that has the date when I can donate again. I usually come in that very day…for the babies.
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