Is altruism really altruistic if you’re engaging in it because helping others makes you feel good about yourself? Because I must confess that was a major factor in my decision to donate blood. It’s kind of like how I was happy when last week I found a woman’s wallet in the parking lot because I got to feel like a hero when I returned it to her.
I’d known about blood donation for a long time but for whatever reason I’d never seriously considered donating blood myself. I got the idea to donate blood a few months ago when I had my blood drawn at a doctor’s appointment. “Are you doing okay?” the phlebotomist kept asking. “Wow, you did great!” he said after the procedure was finished. Not only was I okay during the whole procedure, I actually kind of enjoyed it. I know many people have a fear of needles. Since I have no such fear and I wanted to do something to help others, blood donation seemed like a good option.
I wanted to do something to help myself too. Some people are offended by the fact that that I don’t have a job and have referred to me as a leech or a parasite. Some people have accused me of contributing nothing to society. If I am a leech then by allowing my blood to be sucked, I’d be making up for the blood I’ve sucked from others. I’d also be making a valuable contribution to society, a contribution that could save someone’s life. Another thing I’m accused of frequently is being lazy. There’s a lot of truth in that accusation so another reason blood donation appealed to me is that it would be a valuable contribution that would require a minimal amount of effort on my part.
I looked up information about blood donation. I figured that opportunities to donate blood occurred maybe once a month or so and lasted a few hours. To my surprise I discovered that in my area opportunities to donate blood are available multiple times a week and last a full working day. I looked at the criteria to donate blood and I seemed to be eligible so I put blood donation in the back of my mind as something I would get around to eventually.
About two weeks ago I saw an ad from the American Red Cross saying that they were experiencing a winter shortage in blood supply and that the need for donations was critical. That made me think I should donate blood sooner rather than later.
Last week a friend of mine who has a baby daughter with sickle cell anemia posted that her daughter was sick and at 7 months would need her first blood transfusion. The next day she posted that her daughter had gotten the blood transfusion and was feeling so much better. She urged everyone to donate blood. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting her daughter and she is an adorable, delightful baby. Seeing a real life example of someone I knew who was helped by a blood transfusion made me decide that I wanted to donate blood as soon as possible.
I called the Red Cross and unfortunately it was one of those calls that gets you trapped in an endless loop of extensions to dial, people to be referred to and elevator music to listen to. When I finally got someone who knew what they were talking about, I couldn’t understand what she was saying. I did hear “Walk ins welcome” at the end though so after drinking as much fluid as I could, I showed up at the blood donation center. I was told that it was best to make an appointment but since they were having a slow day they could take me then.
The finger prick they gave me to test my blood hurt like a bitch but the pain only lasted for a few seconds. Unfortunately for me the first test showed that my iron levels were too low so they had to do another finger prick to see if they could get a different reading. Fortunately the second test showed that my iron levels were high enough. I was then left in the room to answer a questionnaire on the computer. Pardon me for being gauche but most of the questions in which a yes answer would disqualify you from donating essentially boiled down to “Are you a dirty crack whore?”
After it was determined that I was eligible to donate blood, I was taken to an examining table and asked to lay down. It took a bit of prodding to find a vein that would work. Then I had to flex my arm and squeeze on a ball to make the vein easier to get. The insertion of the needle didn’t hurt very much and the blood draw process didn’t hurt at all. I was told I wasn’t going to break any speeding records but that was fine because slow and steady wins the race.
The blood draw process usually takes about 8 to 10 minutes but because of my difficult veins it took a bit longer for me. When it was over I felt a bit dizzy but the dizziness subsided after a few minutes. When I felt well enough to get off the table I was given free refreshments.
I noticed a sign asking blood donors to take a selfie and post it on social media with the hash tag “Choose Your Day”. I tried to take a few selfies but they all came out horrible so I had a nurse take my picture in front of a blood donation sign. When I posted it on Facebook it got a lot of likes.
I felt good myself about that day and I was glad to have done something that would make a positive difference in the lives of others. I still feel good about it now. You can donate blood every 56 days so I look forward to donating again in late March. I urge you to consider blood donation as well.