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Give Yourself Away

March 23, 2011 at 12:00 pm
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The following piece by blood donor Kathy Harris is something she voluntarily wrote following her very first blood donation. Please be sure to share it with your friends who are not yet blood donors as a bit of encouragement to give it a try.

Can you believe it’s already been (more than) 56 days since I donated blood for the first time? Though the reminder card on my fridge said I’d be eligible to donate again on the 11th, I hadn’t done anything about it until I received a thick envelope of information from Stanford Blood Center yesterday. It included lots of information on their programs and a card with my new donor ID number, name, and blood type – I think so that future donations can go faster. If nothing else it made me feel especially legit.

Unfortunately blood donors are an exclusive club. Of the less than 38% of Americans eligible to donate blood, only about 5% actually do (Red Cross, Mayo Clinic). In the Bay Area, of approximately 7.1 million residents, only 39% are eligible to donate at any given time, and of that only about 3% actually donate (Stanford Blood Center). Compare that to the U.S. population where 24% have a bachelor’s degree and 9% have an advanced degree. Here’s to being extra special, in much less time and without costing a dime.

The materials also included a link to a website where I could log in with that ID number to see my wellness stats including cholesterol, blood pressure, pulse, and temperature from each donation — hey, a free mini physical every two months! And in case you care, my iron was actually a little above average (despite not eating red meat since middle school — thanks to routine consumption of baby spinach, walnuts, Centrum Ultra Women’s, and Lucky Charms) and my blood pressure was a “normal low” in the “athlete” range (a proud moment, I hope I can keep up… err down). Of course that may also be because at 5’2″ I’m the size of a child, but we’ll just stick with the athlete part.

I felt extra empowered that I could make a difference when I found out that I’m in the lucky < 50% of Americans who do not have cytomegalovirus (CMV). CMV is a member of the herpes family that can, and usually does, remain relatively dormant. Most otherwise healthy folks don’t experience any symptoms but once you have it, it stays in your body for the rest of your life. To already high-risk patients — organ transplant recipients, people with leukemia, and HIV positive individuals — CMV can be deadly. Hence though it really makes absolutely no difference in my day to day life, it’s awesome for blood donation because it means the blood I give can be given to patients with compromised immune systems. And I especially love that.

We are so “connected” to each other through various technical mediums, and yet so separated from each other. And despite medical advancements, this artificiality has yet to replace the lifeblood that connects our community. So if you’re feeling a bit disillusioned — especially among the cords (or lack there of) in Silicon Valley — what more powerful way to reconnect and ground yourself in what’s real than to donate blood?

As if saving lives + colorful bandages + stickers + cookies + juice aren’t enough of an incentive for you to give, at Stanford Blood Center you’ll also earn points each time you give — and then you can trade those in for cool stuff at their Loyalty Store! I’ve already earned 100 points for my first donation at the Rivals for Life blood drive, and I think the number of points goes up each time you come back — even higher if you donate a double unit of red cells. The t-shirts and what not are cool, but you better believe I’m going for the–that’s right–Stanford Blood Center cycling jersey!!! No sweat, only 7,900 more points to go!

Click here to be taken to the original post on Kathy’s blog.

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