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Donating Blood: A Unique Way to Serve

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Donating Blood

A Unique Way to Serve

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At times, I wish I were rich. When someone is in a major financial strain, I wish I could give him a big gift to solve his money problems. At least I am rich in having unlimited prayer time with which to petition our wealthy Creator.

There is another way I’m rich. My body continues to make a very precious product—blood. It makes enough that I can donate about a pint of it every eight weeks to help one, two or even three people to survive and thrive. Around the world there are always countless people who have a critical need for a blood transfusion.

I’ve been donating since the 1980’s—many, many gallons altogether. It has never cost me a penny and never slowed me down, although they always tell me to take it easy for a day following a donation. I’m well-rewarded with the joy it gives me. Plus, I feel good about starving a few mosquitoes!

A unique way to serve

Chapter 58 of Isaiah is largely about fasting. To me, another major lesson of this chapter is that fasting also teaches us about the importance of sacrificing for others (Isaiah 58:6-10). Donating blood is an easy self-sacrifice. Rather than giving up some food for a while, a person is giving up a little of his or her blood for a while. It’s one way to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

My sources for this article were Carter BloodCare, American Red Cross and other Internet sites, and my personal experiences. Note that policies and procedures for donating blood vary from different countries and locales. This article is a brief summary of a big subject.

In most areas, anyone who is age 16 or older and weighs at least 110 pounds is eligible to donate. Many high schools and colleges have blood drives with high participation. This is a unique way to serve and do good if you have the health to do so (Galatians 6:9-10).

Our country always has a blood supply shortage. Consider that the average transfusion requires three pints. A victim of a car accident can require 100 pints! Yet only about three percent of people over age 16 donate each year. The need for donated blood is higher during summer, partly because of more accidents. However, donations have declined during 2020 because of people’s fears about going anywhere. Blood banks and donation centers are extremely careful about cleanliness and procedures, so there is no legitimate reason to fear going to a donation center.

One pint of blood can help save three lives

Think of that! If you were to save someone’s life in another way, such as from drowning, you would be thrilled and forever thankful that you were able to do that. Donating blood is less dramatic but you are helping one, two or three people to sustain or regain vitality and health, and sometimes you are preventing their deaths. It is truly life-saving. You give so someone will live. And if you continue to donate blood, you can be helping to save many lives over a period of time! It’s a wonderful act of compassion, caring and charity.

Furthermore, ongoing research has given increasing evidence that people who regularly donate blood often experience better health in the long run. In addition to the physiological benefits, the happiness one feels from giving is obviously healthful (Acts 20:35).

When whole blood is donated, the processing facility separates the blood into its three main components: red cells, plasma and platelets. When a patient needs a transfusion, he usually needs only one of those components. Therefore, one donation often benefits three patients!

• Red blood cells are the only means by which the body can transport essential oxygen to all the cells of the body and remove the carbon dioxide. A minimum volume of these circulating red blood cells is essential to support life. “The life of every creature is its blood: its blood is its life” (Leviticus 17:14, English Standard Version). Every day, countless people have major blood loss from injuries—plus, many diseases deplete the body’s supply of red blood cells.

• Plasma is the liquid part of the blood and is the source of gamma globulin, albumin and clotting factors. It is used to treat burn victims, clotting disorders and shock from trauma.

• Platelets are essential for normal blood clotting. They can be wiped out during treatment for cancer, leukemia, aplastic anemia and other diseases.

Some donors donate only plasma or only platelets. This is done with a process called apheresis by which an apheresis machine extracts the plasma or platelets from the blood and immediately transfuses the rest of the blood back into the donor. The body requires about eight weeks to replenish all lost red cells, but those donating plasma or platelets can donate much more frequently than that.

There is no substitute for human blood. However, sometimes a life is saved with a transfusion of a non-blood fluid, such as a saline solution. That is done when the primary emergency need is to increase the volume of fluid in the patient’s circulatory system. But in most emergencies, a transfusion of one of the blood components is essential.

On a similar subject, you might also consider signing up to be an organ donor. After your death, some of your organs can greatly benefit others by giving them a significantly better quality of life.

What will you experience at the donation center?

At the donation center, you will answer about 30 questions with a yes-or-no answer to see if your blood is healthy and pure so it can be safely transfused into someone else. The center needs to know if you have had certain diseases, have engaged in any unhealthy activities, are taking certain medications, etc.

Then you receive a free miniature medical checkup. You will learn your blood pressure, pulse, temperature and the level of your hemoglobin (the protein in red blood cells that contains iron and transports the oxygen). A day or two later you can go to the center’s website and learn your cholesterol level. If you don’t already know your blood type, you will learn that as well.

There are many health factors that disqualify a volunteer from donating. Less than 38 percent of the population qualifies to give blood or platelets which is a major reason for the shortages of them. Therefore, if you are healthy enough to donate, please consider donating.

For donating whole blood, the total time at the clinic is about 45 minutes. Often a donation center gives each donor a little gift like a T-shirt. I heard about one donation center that advertised, “A pint of beer for a pint of blood.” Each donor received a coupon that could be redeemed at a particular restaurant after 24 hours.

Does donating cause any pain? My experience is that when the phlebotomist pricks my finger to get a drop of blood to test for my hemoglobin level, I feel a tiny pain for about one second. Then when the phlebotomist inserts the little needle into my arm, I generally feel a slight pain for about two seconds. Small, small sacrifice. I have greater pain getting out of bed in the morning!

Serving and sacrificing

It’s inspiring to reflect on the following scriptures that have to do with generously serving others: Galatians 6:9-10; Luke 6:31-38; Luke 15:1-32; Matthew 5:7; John 15:12-13.

Nothing deserves to be compared with the sacrifice of suffering and death that Jesus Christ endured for each of us. However, a thought that usually comes to my mind when I’m going to donate blood is that Jesus shed His blood and bled to death to save my life—my eternal life! What an amazing self-sacrifice!

Reflecting on that is part of what inspires me to want to shed a pint of blood that could possibly save a life… Or two, or three.