I believe in blood. I believe in donating blood. Everyone has blood; everyone needs blood. I’m type O negative which means my red blood cells lack antigens and anyone can receive my blood. The catch is that I can only receive blood from fellow O negatives, about 7% of the U.S. population. But I’m not worried; I’m thrilled to be part of this special group. When I go to the Red Cross and the phlebotomist sees my blood type I’m treated like a queen. “O negative! We’re soooo glad to have you here today. Of course we appreciate everyone’s donation but we especially need your blood!” Afterwards, I’m immediately attended to by a kindly volunteer who brings me juice and cookies before I’ve even sat down (ok, so they do this for everyone, but it’s a great perk). I never get out of the office without being talked into making my next appointment two months down the road.
When I was a kid I would accompany my dad to his donations. While probably a bore to most kids, I thought it was so cool how the blood looked almost black and the bag was warm when I touched it. When I turned seventeen I couldn’t wait to give my first pint of liquid gold. When I received my “one-gallon pin” at age nineteen I couldn’t have been prouder.
What amazes me about blood is that it’s one of the few charitable donations in life that literally costs me nothing. My body does all the work for me, giving new meaning to the phrase “give of yourself.” I believe that God designed our bodies in this way so that we could truly offer ourselves to others. There is no substitute for human blood, no synthetic liquid that can be pumped into the body to do all the incredible work that the real deal does. After I donate my blood is tested and irradiated, but at the end of the day it is a non-artificial, non-toxic, trans-fat free gift to someone who desperately needs it.
I’m a nurse in a pediatric hospital that treats many cancer patients who need blood. When I gave my very first transfusion it struck me that there was no fanfare, no round of applause and certainly no toddler saying “gee, I’m sure thankful for this blood!” The quiet “drip, drip, drip” of the blood in the IV line was a moment just like any other.
Of course I fully understand that not everyone is able or willing to give blood. My husband has never donated on claims that he will “scream, throw-up or pass out.” Fair enough; I’ve stopped bugging him. Besides, giving blood shouldn’t be something one does out of guilt; it should be a positive experience for both giver and receiver. It is out of love that I give and out of love that I am destined for a life of being poked every 56 days. I’ll be looking forward to it every time.