Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Gift of Life

I saved a life today…maybe more than one.

How did I perform this miraculous feat? Simple. I donated blood.

The past few years, every time I’ve gone to donate, I’ve been a quart low in the hemoglobin department (that’s red blood cells and not having enough means you’re anemic).

On July 4th, my hematocrit, the percentage of red blood cells in my blood, was 34%, not enough to allow me to share. So for the past two months, I’ve been pushing the dark leafy greens, popping iron pills and vitamin C and eating a fair amount of lean red meat. Today, my efforts were rewarded. My count was at 40%! So, I got to share the wealth.

It was really a simple thing to do. I walked into the donor center—actually, I was already there to get signed off for making up collection sets since I work for the Red Cross—and they gave me some literature to read.

Soon, a technician came over and introduced herself. We went into a room where she asked me a bunch of questions about my health and then she took my vital signs. (Temperature, blood pressure and pulse). Then she did a quick fingerstick to check that hematocrit. Once we were done and I’d been given the go ahead, we went out to the donor room and I reclined in a comfy lounge chair, kind of like the ones you see by your average swimming pool.

She swabbed the inside of my elbow with an iodine solution (there’s an iodine-free swab for those who are allergic)and before I knew it, she had the needle in and was instructing me to squeeze the handgrip every five to ten seconds.

Six minutes later, I was done! That simple. She even used pink coflex (that’s the stretchy bandage stuff that keeps the gauze over the venipuncture site) so it would match my clothes.

At the canteen table, I chatted with other blood donors while I drank grape juice and ate some Nutter Butter cookies, then I was on my way home.

In two weeks, if my platelet count (that’s the part of your blood that helps it clot if you get cut) is high enough, I can donate again just for those. And in 56 days, November 1, to be precise, I can donate whole blood again.

It gives me a really good feeling to know that a baby, or a cancer patient, or an accident victim, or some other person in need is going to live because of me…someone they don’t even know.

So, be someone’s hero--donate blood. And if you can’t, encourage someone else to donate in your place. After all, you never know who might receive that blood. It could be your best friend, your spouse, your own child perhaps... or even YOU.