Vampires and donating blood

Vampires are “hot” right now. There must be something visceral about blood and those who seek it. I’m not really a fan. I don’t like most horror movies, hate “slasher” pics, and am generally squeamish about my own and others’ vital bodily fluids.

Blood should be neither seen nor heard.

But I give blood at the Red Cross on a pretty regular basis.

It’s usually a surprise to students in my Mount Mercy College speech classes—when we get to persuasive speaking, it’s one of the example ideas we talk about—a persuasive speech urging others to give blood. I ask students whether they think I’m a blood donor, and most think I’m not—a reasonable guess given that I’ve usually shared some of my life experiences, such as my most embarrassing moment in high school being the time, as a sophomore, when I passed out during the biology lecture on coagulation.

So they think I’m too much of a weenie to give blood. They’re wrong.

My motives are somewhat self-serving. Two and a half decades ago when I was a undergraduate, I was told at a college blood drive not to come back again because I was too much of a hassle given how faint I got. Two decades later, partly out of guilt feelings, partly out of a recognition that I’m getting to a point in life where medical professionals are more likely to poke me with needles and I probably should get used to it, partly because in the intervening years maintaining the blood supply seems to have become more of an issue, I started giving blood again.

I’ve been going to the local Red Cross pretty regularly for several years now.

My efforts to get used to needles have been largely a failure. I’m still a big baby. I get lightheaded, can’t watch while they collect the blood and hate the finger prick just as much as I used to.

But I still do it.

Why? Several reasons. I’m used to the idea that the unpleasant side effects are transitory, I’ll work pretty hard for a free cookie, and, as Audrey often points out, I don’t mind nurses making a fuss over me. Also, I get to be a low-cost hero.

My father-in-law was recently hospitalized with low blood hemoglobin due to mysterious abdominal bleeding. The news isn’t good, he is still very ill and has been diagnosed with cancer, but at least the blood transfusions in the hospital helped him get to the point where he could go home again.

Some anonymous heroes stepped in with their blood.

They say that one donation can save three lives. I’m a bit skeptical about that statistic, but I know the reality that sometimes my blood does help someone I never know. Not George—due his type and my type, I’m sure none of the blood he received was mine—but still, his experience strengthens my resolve to give.

He was hospitalized on a recent Saturday. The following Monday, I was scheduled to give blood. It looked for a time as if I would be too busy to go—I had to babysit my granddaughter Nikayla the same afternoon—but I managed to “squeeze” it in.

It was not a pleasant experience. It never is. But was it worth it?

You bet.

If you ever think about donating blood, please do. Take it from a big baby. You may be slightly embarrassed, and you may have to fess up to the nurse that you’re a “needy” donor—but these days they don’t ever tell you not to come back.

They thank you for coming in anyway even if you’re a bit of a hassle. They need the blood. They are the good vampires, always “hungry” for fresh blood, but not so they can live forever, instead so they can aid others.

And the cookies are still free. And when the chips are down and George or someone like him needs blood, you’re a hero and you don’t even know it.

That’s a pretty good deal.


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