I love giving blood. It speaks to my “love languages”: acts of kindness and service to others. And so, I have been donating blood since college. There were some years I would give every eight weeks. Other years, I didn’t pay attention, and didn’t give much or any at all. Now that I am 68, it’s more important to me than ever.
Before our recent trip to the Dominican Republic, I was thinking about how much blood I had donated over the years—I thought it was about 140 pints in almost 50 years, but I wasn’t sure. I also remembered that, with the recent outbreak of the Zika Virus, I would be excluded from giving blood for one year.
The day before I was to leave, I received a timely call from the Red Cross. They informed me there was a severe shortage of O blood, and asked if I was available to donate that day. Fortunately, I had time and set the appointment. While still on the phone, I got curious and asked if they could look at my records and tell me how many total pints of blood I have given over the past 50+ years. Her answer, “You have donated 143 pints of blood. Thank you so much for your giving. That means that you have saved over 430+ lives.” I was overwhelmed that my donations had resulted in helping so many people.
Red Cross works so hard to keep our blood supply clean for others to use. The staff and volunteers are also amazing. I am so glad I get to share my “perfect blood” (that’s another blog for another day) with the world. I count it as good genetics and 30+ years of lap swimming.
Here are some interesting facts about donating blood from the Red Cross:
- Every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood.
- Approximately 36,000 units of red blood cells are needed every day in the U.S.
- Nearly 7,000 units of platelets and 10,000 units of plasma are needed daily in the U.S.
- Nearly 21 million blood components are transfused each year in the U.S.
- The average red blood cell transfusion is approximately 3 pints.
- It is estimated that sickle cell disease affects 90,000 to 100,000 people in the U.S. About 1,000 babies are born with the disease each year. Sickle cell patients can require frequent blood transfusions throughout their lives.
- More than 1.68 million people are expected to be diagnosed with cancer in 2016. Many of them will need blood, sometimes daily, during their chemotherapy treatment.
- A single car accident victim can require as many as 100 pints of blood.
When I showed up at the donation center, I was given the required packet of prerequisites and a list of all the legal reasons why I shouldn’t give blood. Having received it so many times in the past, I gave it a quick glance and returned the packet (they must have thought I was a speed reader) and took my number.
Once settled in the chair, I got a terrific, experienced nurse, which is not unusual. I can count on one hand (with fingers left over) the number of donations that weren’t pleasant. On this particular occasion, my nurse asked if I had ever done a “double red cell donation”. Having only done it once before, I quickly volunteered.
A double red cell donation, takes much longer than the 7-minute pint donation, but you get credit for two pints of donation. You have to wait 16 weeks before you can give again (instead of the normal eight weeks). This was a perfect solution since I wouldn’t be able to donate for another year following my trip to the Dominican Republic. I was all in!
With the double red cell donation, came a crew of others to help. One of the Red Cross nurses in the Portland donation center is a very nice man also named John White. Everyone thought that was hilarious! I kept asking people if we looked like twins— that brought more laughter and smiles. As you can see from the picture, we are obviously fraternal twins.
There are so many ways, big and small, that we can help others. Donating blood is one way that has far reaching impact. I am grateful knowing that I have made a difference. So can you.