It’s in you to give

I do not like donating blood. I would even go so far as to say I strongly dislike donating blood. And guess what? I do not have a good reason. 

As a kid, I didn’t know that a person’s body made blood regularly; I thought we just had the one supply our whole lives. I was amazed by donors. These people had no way of predicting how much blood they’d need for themselves the rest of their lives – and yet they willingly just gave pints of it away?! Incredible. 

As an adult, I know the science. I know that no matter how many skinned knees I get (this was one of the things I worried about when young), I have more than enough blood to be giving it away. And yet, I feel similarly about going to the blood clinic as I do about going to the dentist (and I detest trips to the dentist).

I don’t look at needles, but I’m not afraid of them. I don’t love the appearance of a bag of blood, but it doesn’t make me squeamish. I don’t like that the clinic nurses say they’re looking at my arms for rashes or eczema, even though I can see the screens of their computers prompting them to look for needle tracks. I don’t like that my first donor experience ended with me laying on the floor while the nurses held a juicebox to my mouth, but that hasn’t happened since.

I have no good reasons; I just don’t like it. Why do it then? Well, if you haven’t figured out by now that I believe in doing things for others even if they’re not enjoyable, I don’t know what else to say. Especially after the last 21 months, I’ve lost what little patience I had for people who refuse to understand this concept. 

And yet. I’m not going to lie and say I’m completely altruistic. From the time I began giving blood (which I will also confess was not very long ago), it’s not like I rushed out to do it every time I was eligible. Making a new appointment usually took a few reminder voicemails, emails, and maybe even a radio ad about how desperately low the blood bank was getting. During periods when I’d recently travelled to a region that prevented me from donating, I enjoyed my guilt-free ability to ignore the voicemails. 

In other words: I may have no patience for people who refuse to do things that support or protect others, but it’s not like I’ll ever be president of the good deeds club. I also know firsthand that experiencing something myself or through a loved one is often an extra boost of encouragement to do the things we know we should do. 

And so, after a very long intro, I’ll get to the point of this post. If you are eligible to give blood but haven’t gotten around to it, please hear me when I say that I’ve seen it save a life. 

A few months ago, my dad was diagnosed with cancer. This fall, I accompanied him to radiation and chemotherapy appointments. The first two days of treatment seemed fine. The third was horrible. And on the fourth, we returned to his house from the hospital just to receive a phone call from one of the oncologists – asking him to go to the emergency department. She’d just read his lab results from the morning’s bloodwork, and he needed to be hospitalized. The process of getting a bed was long, and included several extra steps compared to normal. After all, this whole experience was occurring against the backdrop of Alberta’s fourth wave of covid-19 (a fourth and otherwise preventable wave, if it wasn’t for people refusing to do uncomfortable things for the sake of others). 

Anyway. During the course of all this, my dad needed a blood transfusion. They gave him the “usual” amount, and waited…it still wasn’t enough, so they gave him some more and kept him for an extra week to monitor. 

It seems silly now, but I was surprised when they hung the donated blood on his IV pole. I don’t know how I thought blood was stored, but I was surprised to see that it came to my dad in the same bags that the donor would have had taped to their own arm. All of a sudden, the experience I disliked so much felt a lot more intimate and significant. 

Once my dad was home and settled, I booked an appointment to give blood. And I hope this is the story you need to book yours.

Like they say, it’s in you to give. 

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