Have you ever donated blood? Many years ago when I worked in magazine publishing, the company I worked for held a blood drive. Truth be told, it was not the best experience I ever had. Being a fainter by nature, it took a long time before I felt steady on my feet again. It took so long, in fact, that I was fairly embarrassed. Co-workers were donating blood and heading back to their desks while I sat there waiting to feel better.
Though I would have been happy to never donate blood again, not long after was the dark day of September 11th. Since the bridges and tunnels were closed, I stayed with a friend in Manhattan on that fateful night. She lives a couple blocks away from New York Hospital, and just after we watched the south tower fall from her apartment window, I headed down the road to get in line to donate blood. With no other way to help, donating blood was the very least I could do as we waited to hear about the fate of friends and family members.
Upon reaching the hospital it became evident that so many other people had the same thought at the same time. Find a way, any way, to help on a day when we all felt so helpless. The hospital requested that only people with Type O blood (the “universal donors”) stay to make a donation, saying that if there was a further need we would be notified later on. Having learned years earlier during a high school class where we typed our own blood that I was not a universal donor, I turned around and waited for a call that never came.
As wonderful as it was that so many people jumped to help in their own way, blood donations are needed on a regular basis, and not just during a national tragedy. Donations can save lives. More than 41,000 blood donations are needed every day right here in the United States. Although an estimated 38% of the U.S. population is eligible to donate blood, less than 10% actually do so each year.
June 14th is annual World Blood Donor Day, an annual reminder of the global need for regular blood donations. Sadly, many patients around the world who are in need of a blood transfusion do not have access to safe blood. This is especially true for new moms.
Consider this. Every day, about 800 women around the world die from pregnancy or childbirth-related complications. Severe bleeding during delivery and after childbirth is a major cause of this type of mortality because access to safe and sufficient blood is one of the major challenges in many countries around the world. The focus for this year’s campaign is “Safe blood for saving mothers,” because more blood donations means more access to safe blood. And more access to safe blood means that more women will survive pregnancy and childbirth.
At least three people I know have cancer or are just finishing up cancer treatment. Many cancer patients will need to receive blood during their chemotherapy treatment. Sometimes daily.
So whatever the reason you choose to donate blood, please consider donating, and encourage your spouse and loved ones to donate too. Every person who donates blood can save a life. Actually, one donation can help as many as three people. Not sure where to go or how to begin? Click here to make a blood donation appointment at a location in your area. Even if you cannot donate yourself, you can still help by volunteering at a Red Cross location near you.
What a wonderful way to pay it forward. Isn’t that worth a little bit of discomfort?