Fourth of 26 blogs in Blogging from A to Z
“I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.”
Winston Churchill, speech in House of Commons, May 1940
This morning I got 2 emails about donating blood – one from my sister in Massachusetts and the other from our local public health department in Seattle. My sister’s message informed me that her daughter Ellen was spending the day volunteering at a Red Cross blood donation center near Boston. The public-health email linked to a guest blog by Curt Bailey, the CEO of Bloodworks Northwest, the major supplier of blood in the Seattle area since before the end of World War II.
Wearing a homemade mask, Ellen’s job was to check the temperatures of donors—a new procedure introduced to address concerns about COVID-19.
“Previously they only had donor ambassadors who would direct donors during their check in process. Now everyone who walks in must have their temperature taken upon entry into the blood drive area.”Ellen
Although only people with appointments were allowed to donate blood, Ellen said about 10 people walked in off the street during her 7-hour shift. A few of them were able to make same-day appointments. The mother of 2 school-age boys, Ellen was happy to see parents coming in with “willing teenagers.”
“So nice to see the teens there!”Ellen
Back in Seattle, Curt Bailey made a convincing case for donating blood, noting that:
- Blood is perishable, so it can’t be stockpiled.
- In our area (home to Seattle Cancer Care Alliance), “one third of all donated blood goes to persons fighting cancer and other blood disorders.”
- Seattle’s regional trauma center and its children’s hospital need a safe, dependable supply of blood as they serve patients in a large, multi-state region. (The same is true, by the way, for another 90 or so hospitals in western Washington and Oregon.)
- Several new safety protocols are in place to protect donors and staff.
Bailey’s bottom line: To maintain an adequate blood supply, “it’s critical that 1,000 people donate every day.”
This should have been an easy call, right? The CEO from a highly respected institution makes a very reasonable request – not for my money, but for my blood. And I read this request knowing that my plenty-on-her-plate niece was spending her Saturday taking the temperatures of everyone who walked into a busy blood bank. In addition, I was not exactly overscheduled since every appointment, class, meeting, and social engagement for the next two months has been canceled, and it seems likely that my summer plans will suffer the same fate.
So why didn’t I pick up the phone immediately?
I was embarrassed. I have a history of passing out when I see blood, especially when that blood is pulsing into a vial of some sort. It’s happened more times than I care to remember –
- When I took my sister to the hospital after a bike accident and the ER doctor asked me to leave because all the color had left my face and she knew I was about to faint.
- On my first day as a candy striper in a pediatrics ward, I passed out while “helping” the medical staff hold an infant still while they took blood.
- After being patched up in the ER after a tumble from a bike on Nantucket, I had to rest in a holding room for almost an hour – not because of my (mild) injuries, but because, once again, I had been traumatized by the sight of blood.
I could go on, but you get the idea.
The problem is not insurmountable. Over the years, I have learned not to watch as the little vials fill with blood for various lab tests. Similarly, I avert my eyes when a phlebotomist is searching for a vein – mine or anyone else’s. I’m still interested (I’ve always been interested), but really, who needs the drama?
So this afternoon I got online and made an appointment. The amazing thing was that, for the location closest to me, the first available appointment wasn’t until May 15th! Despite cancellation of regular blood drives, the message is getting through: We are a community. We need to look out for each other, and an important way we can do that is by donating blood.