Giving with gratitude

If gratitude can seep into your blood, my February blood donations are brimming with it.
My daughter Anna required multiple blood transfusions during her open heart surgery, a a procedure she underwent when she was just seven months old.
So, if my blood donation day happens to fall in February (the month her surgery took place), I dedicate my donation to my now 12-year-old daughter, her skilled surgeon, and those amazing anonymous people who donated the blood that saved her life.
I became a regular blood donor last year.
I had donated blood prior to this, but my donations were infrequent, mostly because I had been turned away multiple times due to my low iron levels. And, after a few failed attempts, I no longer made donating a priority. I simply stopped trying.
Instead of addressing the issue—and my overall health—I just told myself I couldn’t donate blood because I was anemic. It was an easy, pathetic “out.”
That all changed when the calendar flipped to 2021, and an appointment with my doctor revealed some not-so-great health news. I’m fine, but my blood sugar levels, cholesterol, and weight were all elevated and needed to be addressed.
And, along with the unwanted news, I was told that “at my age” it is important to immediately make and adopt lifestyle changes if I don’t want to deal with serious health issues in the near future.
It wasn’t a fun appointment, and I did mope about it for a few days… And, then, I decided to make the changes. I got up early and exercised. I carefully planned and prepared my family’s meals, and I kept in regular contact with my doctor to assure my numbers were improving.
It wasn’t easy, but it worked. And, on one of my many medical reports, I noticed my blood-iron level was in the “good” zone—a place it hadn’t been for years! (Spinach works wonders!)
This inspired me to make an appointment to donate blood. And, after giving blood for the first time in many years, I installed the Red Cross’s Blood Donor app on my phone. The app allows you follow your blood’s “journey.”
First—after the blood is properly packaged and labeled at the donation site—it is processed. This includes being scanned into a computer database.
Then, according to the American Red Cross Blood Donor app, most blood is spun in centrifuges to separate the transfusable components—red cells, platelets, and plasma. (These primary components can be further manufactured into components such as cryoprecipitate, which is a portion of plasma that is rich in clotting factors and can reduce blood loss by helping slow or stop bleeding.)
Another part of the processing is the leukoreduction of red blood cells, which means the whole blood is filtered and white blood cells are removed. According to MedicineNet.com, white blood cells (leukocytes) are removed because they provide no benefit to the recipient but can carry bacteria and viruses to the recipient.
While all this processing is happening, test tubes of the donated blood are sent to a Red Cross National Testing Laboratory where “a dozen tests are performed on each unit of donated blood to establish the blood type and test for infectious diseases.” These test results are transferred electronically to the manufacturing facility within 24 hours.
If a test result is positive, the donation is discarded and the donor is notified.
I have not yet had my blood flagged or tossed, and I’m grateful for this as I’ve come to think of this testing process as a mini health check-up for myself.
Next, “Step 4” on my Blood Journey story is highlighted when my donation has been deemed “suitable for transfusion” and is labeled as such and stored.
According to the Red Cross, red cells are stored in refrigerators for up to 42 days. Platelets are stored at room temperature in agitators for up to five days, and plasma and cryoprecipitate are frozen and stored in freezers for up to one year.
Lastly, comes the most exciting—and rewarding—part.
I’m notified when my blood is sent on its mission to help someone. Thanks to the app, I’m informed of where/how it will be used.
My most recent blood donation went to St. Luke’s Hospital in New Bedford, Massachusetts, to help a cancer patient, according to the information provided me by my Blood Donor app.
Receiving this information, weeks after my donation, helps bolster my desire to keep donating—to make the appointment, keep myself healthy, and not push aside or cancel my donation appointment when life gets busy.
I’ve also started dedicating my donations to people I know who are facing health challenges and might need or have needed donor blood. I don’t tell anyone for whom I’m donating. I just hold this information in my heart and say a few prayers for the individual while I’m donating.
The whole, amazing blood journey—from the time you donate until the time it reaches a person in need—takes weeks to accomplish, but the turnaround time has become a lot shorter in recent months. This, undoubtedly, reflects the current blood shortage crisis.
If you are a blood donor, thank you.
If you’ve donated before, but haven’t made it a priority in recent years, please consider making an appointment to donate.
And, if you have never donated, I encourage you to think about it. Do your research. Talk to your doctor and to other people who donate. Try it.
It’s a simple way you can touch—and possibly save—many lives, which in turn, can also be a good motivator to take care of your own health.

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