The Red Cross and Me

I have always given blood.  I really recommend it for anybody who wants to do a little bit for their community.  It is painless except for the interview. 

For instance, for some inane reason, when I give blood, they insist on knowing if I have been to Africa within the last seven years and if I have been to Africa, did I have sex with any animals while there.  This seems like a pointless question and once answered, why ask every time I go to give blood?  Pointless or not, it is meant to protect the quality and integrity of the blood supply so I dutifully answer each of the fifty questions honestly and earnestly.  (I was kidding about the bestiality question being one of the questions.  It really isn't.)

In reflection, I really didn't start giving blood regularly until I found out my son Tim had AIDs.  Part of his treatment for AIDs, required frequent transfusions of blood to boost his immune system and in general, give him a little boost to help him feel better. 

I did a lot of things to help Tim and his treatment before his passing in 1998.  One of those things was to purposely give blood as often as I could.

The Red Cross has several programs for giving blood and blood products.  Please explore their web site for specific donation centers in your area and make an appointment, right now.

 For me, I can tell you a little about my experience and maybe it will sway you to give blood or at least let you know that it isn't an ordeal.

When I first started giving blood, the Red Cross center was off of Coleman and 880.  It is now located at 2731 North First Street, cross street Plumeria, about 2 street lights south of Montague Expressway.  This center is currently known as the Santa Clara Valley Chapter of the Red Cross.

What is it like to give blood and how long does it take? 

For me, the time it takes varies between 45 minutes and 2 hours.  The large time variance is due to staffing and the number of people who are signed up to give blood.  My experience on May 17, 2006 was very pleasant.  My appointment was for 12:15.  I arrived at 12:12 and I was taken to an interview room right away.  This is always a good sign.  At different times, it has taken up to a 1/2 hour just to get to the interview room.  I was also out of there at 1:08 so the whole experience was just a little short of an hour total time spent.

From start to finish; some click on links detailing everything you may have wanted to know about the process. 

I left out some little details about how nice the staff is and what a great job they do of trying to make you feel at ease and comfortable during the process.  I am sure you will discover the same on your visit to the Red Cross, an always pleasant and helpful staff.  Did I mention the free cookies at the end?

Here is a "Five" gallon Red Cross certificate that was issued to me, recognizing my donation efforts.
Yes, I am a FIVE gallon Donor as of March 15, 2006.

Just imagine what five gallons of blood is like.  Go to your frig and grab a full gallon of milk and hold it out at arms length.  Now imagine it is red and you are holding five of them at once.  That is what five gallons of blood would look and feel like.  I have given five gallons (forty pints) of blood, one pint at a time.  I give blood on the average of four to five times a year.  That is about 1/2 gallon per year.  As of 8/20/2008, I am at 6 Gallons and one pint.

This is my recently retired (March 15, 2006) donor card

Lastly, I would like to mention that my blood has a special antibody against CMV (a virus) which makes my blood especially useful for transfusing babies.  They call us "Baby Donors" at the Red Cross as that is where our blood is designated to be used.  In a conversation with a nurse, this is the only kind of blood that can be used to transfuse a baby as all other adult blood is toxic to their little systems.

How rare is a CMV negative  donor?  About 10% of the general population has this special enhancement.  Since less then 10% of the general population donates blood that means 10% of the possible donors have this enhancement for donating blood to babies or 1% of the general population.

Speaking of testing, all donated blood is tested for HIV, Hepatitis, etc. before it enters the blood supply chain.  

It is safer though, if you know you have infected or tainted blood, not to give at all.  It is not cool to go and give blood, just to get your blood tested for free, for instance.  No tests are 100% accurate so it is better not to give blood at all if you are even at the slightest risk of carrying an undesirable blood borne disease. 

BTW, if you are giving blood, it is also best not to be on any medication including and especially aspirin.  The medications you are taking would inadvertently be administered to any body being transfused so the Red Cross will probably not take your blood if you are on any medications.  Blood can not be drawn if you had aspirin in the last 48 hours.

So, find the Red Cross CENTER closest to you and donate blood, every chance you get.

 Because of me, because of you giving blood, there will be a soldier, a mom, a baby, a kid, a husband, who is going to benefit from having the right blood to transfuse them at that critical time in their life, when they really need it.