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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 Isaiah 58:6-10 [6] Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? [7] Is it not to deal your bread to the hungry, and that you bring the poor that are cast out to your house? when you see the naked, that you cover him; and that you hide not yourself from your own flesh? [8] Then shall your light break forth as the morning, and your health shall spring forth speedily: and your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. [9] Then shall you call, and the LORD shall answer; you shall cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If you take away from the middle of you the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity; [10] And if you draw out your soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall your light rise in obscurity, and your darkness be as the noon day:
American King James Version×
). 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 Galatians 6:9-10 [9] And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. [10] As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good to all men, especially to them who are of the household of faith.
American King James Version×
).

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 Acts 20:35I have showed you all things, how that so laboring you ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.
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).

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 Leviticus 17:14For it is the life of all flesh; the blood of it is for the life thereof: therefore I said to the children of Israel, You shall eat the blood of no manner of flesh: for the life of all flesh is the blood thereof: whoever eats it shall be cut off.
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, 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 Galatians 6:9-10 [9] And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. [10] As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good to all men, especially to them who are of the household of faith.
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; Luke 6:31-38 Luke 6:31-38 [31] And as you would that men should do to you, do you also to them likewise. [32] For if you love them which love you, what thank have you? for sinners also love those that love them. [33] And if you do good to them which do good to you, what thank have you? for sinners also do even the same. [34] And if you lend to them of whom you hope to receive, what thank have you? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. [35] But love you your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and you shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind to the unthankful and to the evil. [36] Be you therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. [37] Judge not, and you shall not be judged: condemn not, and you shall not be condemned: forgive, and you shall be forgiven: [38] Give, and it shall be given to you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that you mete with it shall be measured to you again.
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; Luke 15:1-32 Luke 15:1-32 [1] Then drew near to him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. [2] And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receives sinners, and eats with them. [3] And he spoke this parable to them, saying, [4] What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, does not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? [5] And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. [6] And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. [7] I say to you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repents, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance. [8] Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, does not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? [9] And when she has found it, she calls her friends and her neighbors together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. [10] Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repents. [11] And he said, A certain man had two sons: [12] And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me. And he divided to them his living. [13] And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. [14] And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. [15] And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. [16] And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave to him. [17] And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! [18] I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before you, [19] And am no more worthy to be called your son: make me as one of your hired servants. [20] And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. [21] And the son said to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight, and am no more worthy to be called your son. [22] But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: [23] And bring here the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: [24] For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry. [25] Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. [26] And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. [27] And he said to him, Your brother is come; and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has received him safe and sound. [28] And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and entreated him. [29] And he answering said to his father, See, these many years do I serve you, neither transgressed I at any time your commandment: and yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: [30] But as soon as this your son was come, which has devoured your living with harlots, you have killed for him the fatted calf. [31] And he said to him, Son, you are ever with me, and all that I have is yours. [32] It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this your brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.
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; Matthew 5:7 Matthew 5:7Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
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; John 15:12-13 John 15:12-13 [12] This is my commandment, That you love one another, as I have loved you. [13] Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
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.

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.