Updated: Sep 11, 2020
Celebrating World Blood Donor Day
Did you know: One blood donation can potentially save up to 3 lives?
Did you know: Every 2 seconds someone in the US needs blood?
Did you know: Approximately 36,000 units of red blood cells are needed every day in the US?
Each of these facts come from the American Red Cross and point to an underlying need in the US each and every day – people need blood products and people are needed to donate. Blood and platelets cannot be manufactured. While artificial knees and hips have become standard, and heart valves from animals are used in certain circumstances, blood can only come from other people.
I gave my first pint of blood as a senior in high school at the age of 17. I watched as my grandfather gave regularly and knew that despite my extreme dislike of needles, it was a worthy cause. Over the years, with a pint here and a pint there, I donated through college and my early working career when the opportunity presented itself.
After moving to Jacksonville, the blood mobile showed up a few times a year at our church. I got on the big red bus and the process was relatively easy. Answer some questions, check the iron level in your blood, and verify your pulse and blood pressure are in a safe range. No problem. I gave a unit of whole blood and felt like I had done a little good that day. I did this every time the bus showed up. However, I was reactive not proactive.
About 12 years ago, I walked into a blood center in Jacksonville on a whim and asked if I could donate. Silly question, I know – of course I could donate. The set up was completely different from the bus as donors and employees in the center chatted like they had known each other for years.
When I finished, they asked if I wanted to make an appointment to come back in 8 weeks. While I never like having to make a commitment, I agreed and we schedule the next donation. This was new to me. I usually just gave when there was a blood drive or the bus showed up. I never scheduled a time to return. Proactive versus reactive.
On the next visit, they asked me a different question. Did I want to donate platelets instead of a regular whole blood donation? Platelets are one component of what makes up the blood in our bodies and are most often used during cancer treatments and organ transplants. It’s the part of the blood that helps us stop bleeding. The thing about platelets is it has the shortest shelf life of all blood products – just 5 days. There is a constant need for platelets.
After my first platelet donation, I made another appointment. While these donations took longer and could happen every two weeks, I looked forward to my visits. It gave me an opportunity to chat with my new friends, time to read, or just stop for 90 minutes and relax. Yes, donating blood became relaxing. Proactive versus reactive.
Over the course of nearly a decade, I have given over 30 gallons of blood just in Jacksonville. If memory serves me right, I am at about 32 gallons including the times in Minnesota, Iowa and Connecticut. That means I have potentially helped over 750 people through blood, platelets and/or plasma. While I have not been able to give in the past couple years, I hope to get back to it one day.
I want to salute other blood donors I know and their continued efforts to help with the local blood supply. I know people who have given 5, 30 and even over 100 gallons of blood. Thank you!
If you have donated even just once, thank you. You never know who you may help now or in the future. If you haven’t tried, take time out and make an appointment at your local donation center. That big scary needle became much less menacing over the years, to the point where I looked forward to it, because I knew it meant I was able to help someone else.
So, in honor of World Blood Donor Day today, June 14th, and in recognition of all the donors in my community and around the world, thank you. You are making a difference in one life, and in many lives which each donation.