When I was in college, I met a woman who worked there, in the Women’s Services Center (she and I met when I volunteered for a “safe rides” program). I was terribly impressed with her 5-gallon pin from the American Red Cross, and took it as a challenge: she was in her 40’s, and I would have one of those of my very own before I was 30.
And I did it. I started going about every ten weeks or so, and a couple weeks before my 29th birthday, I won that coveted pin.
(For the record: one donation equals one pint, so eight donations equals a gallon of blood. And the average human body holds 10-12 pints of blood.)
Once I got that pin, though, I started slacking off. I eventually reached six gallons, but my donation rate trickled off until I was lucky if I made it once a year.
Hurricane Katrina reminded me of my sloth, and finally pushed me into resuming. Yesterday I went to the Red Cross, and got into line.
But I didn’t have to wait long. I was asked if I’d like to donate just red blood cells instead — the fact that my blood type is O+ seemed a bit of a bonus. It would take a bit longer, but if I agreed, I’d go right to the head of the line.
From what I understood, what they do is take out a pint of blood, separate out the red blood cells, then give you back the leftovers (along with some saline solution and some citrate). Then they take a second pint and do it again.
The drawback is that you can only do it half as often (you have to wait 16 weeks, not 8, before donating again), but they do give you “double credit.” On the plus side, they can use the pure cells to help a lot more people than they can with whole blood.
So I went for it. With my iron count being a robust 46 (The minimum to donate is 40), I completed the process in a scant 32 minutes. The nurse might have been merely being kind, but she did say that was a record.
It actually hurt a little less than a regular donation. I do have a rather cool skinny half-inch bruise on the inside of my elbow to show from it, but otherwise no other problems. And the new bandages they use are quite nifty, and don’t pull out arm hairs.
Now, I’ve never been much for jewelry. The only adornment I wear regularly is a MedicAlert-style bracelet for a a serious medical condition (and no, it’s nothing that interferes with my donating blood), and I’m not really fond of that. But I do have that one piece of jewelry that I am inordinately proud of — and it cost me a lot more than most anyone else pays for their bling.
So if you’re capable and qualified, go give some blood. Give red blood cells, if you can.
Mr. Duckie wants you to.