Every 56 days or thereabouts, our local blood bank, Coffee Memorial Blood Center, has a blood drive in our town . It is generally held in the community center and it is definitely a community affair. Everyone shows up - young and old, employed and unemployed, moms with their kids and occasionally a grandparent with their grandkids. CJ used to go with me and it was really cool. Being held in the community center, there is no privacy so he got to see all the nuts and bolts involved in blood donation, from the pre-donation screening to the post-donation cookies and drinks which, of course was his favorite part. I always shared.
Last Wednesday, I had a 5:00 appointment to donate. I signed in and the intake person asked what my blood type was. I told her and she asked if I would be interested in symbol (maybe cymbal, I didn't ask). I asked what it was and she said that it was a double donation of red blood cells.
I had previously donated through the apheresis process at the blood bank's main office in Amarillo whereby they harvest platelets from your blood and then return your blood back to you with a nifty little machine. This double red cell donation is very similar.
Only one needle is inserted just like a standard donation. The difference? You donate about 1/2 a pint and it goes through a centrifuge. Then the machine reverses itself and pumps saline solution into you. This happens four times until you have donated two bags instead of one. The fun part? The blood leaving your body is somewhere around 98 degrees. The saline solution entering your body is room temperature or somewhere around 65-70 degrees.
I cannot begin to tell you how bizarre this feels. The phlebotomists check on you fairly often and make sure that you are warm enough, offering blankets if needed. It doesn't take but 25 to 30 minutes longer than the regular donation process and I was through by 6:15. The thing that I didn't realize before I got my paperwork is that the double donation also means that you can only donate every 112 days instead of 56.
After you are through donating, there is an evaluation form to fill out for the blood bank. They ask what they did well and what they could do better. The question that always stumps me is "Why do you donate?"
I don't know. It's just what you do. My dad and mom always donated blood to the Carpenter's Union account at their local blood bank. When my daughter was hurt in a car accident as a baby, she needed several transfusions. The blood bank was there.
When my youngest daughter had her son, she needed blood. The blood bank was there.
I asked my friends on facebook why they gave blood and, predominantly, it was out of generosity. Almost all of us know someone who has needed blood and almost all of us know someone who will need blood. As one of my friends pointed out, blood is one of the things that even the miracles of modern medicine cannot replicate. So, even though I have turned this over in my mind for a lot of time, I still just have the same answer.
I donate because it's what you do.