Giving Blood


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The first time I gave blood I was 18 and passed by the blood drive in the student center. I did it for the free pizza and the free t-shirt. And actually, I didn’t do it at all. I tried but my iron was too low to actually give, but I got a free t-shirt and coupon for free pizza anyway.

Every time there was a drive in the student center I would try to give, and every time I my iron would be too low but I’d get the free t-shirt and pizza anyway.

Years later my friend Marla was going to a blood drive down the street from the newspaper where we worked. Marla was a regular blood donor, and it was from her that I first heard the term “galloneer.” This is someone who gives a gallon of blood, over time of course, one pint at a time.

I was inspired by Marla’s giving spirit. She’s really the most giving person I know, not just with blood but anything she has she’ll give you if you need it (or sometimes just if you want it.) This time my iron level was good, and I was able to successfully donate!

I gave several other occasions during that period, and a few times I had bad experiences with nurses not being able to find a vein, with rupturing the vein they found, with having to sometimes poke me more than once, etc.

Fast forward and I’m back in Alabama. The company where I worked sponsored an on-site blood drive, and I went to give. My iron level was good (yea!) so here we go. I was sitting there pumping my hand every five seconds, like they told me to, and I notice that the donor next to me, who started after me, is finished.

Hmm.

The nurse tells me that maybe I should pump every three seconds to help move things along.

OK.

Well, what ended up happening is that my blood clotted in the needle so I had stopped bleeding. The worst part is that while I had successfully given a pint of blood, because I was no longer bleeding they couldn’t draw the blood they needed to do all the testing they do. So that pint was wasted, and I as pretty bummed. In addition to that, all my hand-pumping for an artery that had clotted made a very bad black and blue bruise in the crook of my arm.

After that I lost my drive to give. It was disheartening to try to help someone and get so close and then not be able to. This wasn’t “your iron level is too low” disheartening. This was, I let them stick me (ouch!) and I donated my time and almost all the blood they needed but just not enough.

I was also scared it would happen again.

Maybe being a blood donor just wasn’t going to be my thing.

Fast forward again … five years later. There was a blood drive at my son’s school and I wanted to give. I really wanted to give, bad enough that my desire overrode my fear of disappointment. I shared the story of the last time I gave, hoping that what the technician who was about to take my blood would take from my story is don’t let that happen again, please.

It didn’t happen again. My iron was good, the donation was good, and I even got a free t-shirt and coupon for a free pizza.

Three months later, I passed a blood drive bus and the sign read “urgent need.” I gave again; no problems.

Each time I’ve given I’ve told my sons about it but they’ve never been with me.  So yesterday, we passed the blood drive bus with the “urgent need” signs, and I took my sons with me. I kinda bribed them by saying if you give blood you get a snack and that maybe the nurses would let them have a snack too. They had cookies and juice and even got a free t-shirt too. Me — free t-shirt and a coupon for a pound of cookie dough!

I want to raise my sons to think about others and be givers not just takers. They’re squeamish about the needle of course. I don’t love that part either. But someday I may need a blood donation and I’ll be thankful that someone out there overcame their fear of needles or of disappointment so that I can have it.

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