So this morning I find myself heading down to the Blood Bank of Hawaii to give blood. They called me earlier in the week stating that they had a critical shortage of my blood type and having given in the past, I was on the roster to give again.
I am happy to give blood especially in a time of need, but don't get me wrong, I don't really like it. I have never been fond of getting any kind of hand injuries so the hemoglobin test is kinda scary to me. I realize that it is only a small stick, but the anticipation really gets me. I am surprised that my pulse rate is so low after getting jabbed in the finger. On top of that, the idea of voluntarily sticking a needle in my vein, when I am perfectly healthy, even for the best of intentions, seems counter intuitive to me.
So why give?
I don't to tell you all the statistics about how much blood is needed every day or that each donation can potentially save three lives. The Blood Bank does a good job of getting the word out on the need for blood. In my case, I do it because of my family.
Like a lot of things in life, being a husband and father has given me a new perspective on the need to do the right thing especially in the face of your fears.But it was when I took my 11-year-old son with me to donate blood that it really hit me why I need to give, in particular.
My son was with me for my donation in December really out of necessity. He was off for the day and I had a commitment to go give at the new blood donation center. Whenever I take him to do things that are new to him, I take the time to explain things and answer his questions.
On this trip, I was explaining the need for variety people to give because of their different blood types. As it turns out, I am AB+. I told him that people call that the "Universal Receiver" because people with that type of blood can take any type in an emergency. On the other hand, people call type O folks, "Universal Donors" since anyone can receive their blood.
To this, my son said that I am lucky because I can receive any blood type. He was right.
However, I told him that it was because other type AB+ people can get any blood type that I really must donate. He looked puzzled.
I told him that because type AB+ folks can use whatever blood is available, I wanted to make sure that there would be sufficient blood of the appropriate type so that they would not deplete the supply for others.
Then I told him, imagine we were having a pizza party and we had three types of people showing up. One group were lactose-intolerant, one group were vegetarian and the last had no dietary restrictions. As a consequence, we order three types of pizza: cheese-less, plain pizzas with just crust and sauce; vegetarian pizzas with cheese but no meat and then supreme pizzas with the works.
I reminded him that there was a time when he could not eat dairy at all and asked, "So how would you feel if I showed up at the party and ate the plain pizza with no cheese?"
He answered, "But then what would I eat?"
"Well, I got to the party first and saw that I could eat any of the pizzas since I have no dietary restrictions, so I ate the plain pizza. In fact, I ate some of the vegetarian pizza too."
He looked concerned.
"So do you think it is fair if I eat all the different pizzas just because I can knowing that there are people who cannot?"
"No. Because then the other people will have nothing."
I explained to him that if you have fewer limits that it does not entitle you to more. That instead it means you have an obligation to do your part to make sure that you are not infringing on access to the same basic things that you may otherwise take for granted.
Who knew that a mere two months later, I would get the call that would confirm my theory. That there are too few AB+ people giving blood and although I will never be at a loss should I need blood, there are many others who could be right now.
So if you are healthy, give blood. It can be a little scary, but I promise that it is worth it.