The thing you don't think about until you need it.
For some, that's maybe the most boring sentence they've ever read.
For others, who have been on a different side of that need, it's another chance.
Chance? Need? Blood?
For some just reading the word "blood," or thinking about the fluid is enough to trigger some sort of uneasy "I don't fill-in-blank well with blank" reaction.
Coming to terms with the reality of components within us that keep us alive and breathing can be a jarring experience for some.
I'm not sure why, but when confronted with images of blood or needles, I get a slightly warm, queasy feeling that I want to just push away from myself and ignore until homeostasis returns. If I had to guess, I would blame part of it on social conditioning to be made uncomfortable by things that in my experience have only held a very important and sterile place.
But I think another part of it is being confronted with the reality that my life is finite. There are limited resources within my conscious being, keeping me alive. I could lose it all in an event completely out of my control, at any time.
So yeah, thinking about blood makes me uncomfortable. I don't want to do it.
However, I would argue that coming to terms with something more devastating, like the death of a loved one from loss or lack of those life sustaining components–like blood–is a far more traumatic experience.
One I have had, repeatedly, from a disease called Leukemia.
Leukemia started stealing family members from me in high school, starting with my grandfather. The pattern continued in college with the death of a beloved second cousin, "Uncle" Jim. He was the one who told me "If you drink and drive, don't smoke — you gotta have one hand on the wheel."
If you are unfamiliar with Leukemia, let me introduce you to it by saying it sucks.
Leukemia is a cancer of the blood and blood cells, that comes in a variety of diseases. For more information on the illness, I'll let the good folks at the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society educate you in far more articulate and less emotionally charged terms on their site.
(Interesting aside, only two percent of the American population donates blood regularly. If one more percent began donating on a regular basis, it would irradicate the shortage of supply. Just one percent. And 38 percent of the population is eligible to donate, meaning they meet the donor requirements, but only 10 percent ever do.)
Treatments for Leukemia include radiation, chemotherapy, anti-biotics and blood transfusions. Transfusions are often necessary because of the depleting effects the first two treatments above can have on a patient's blood supply.
Transfusions give people time. Transfusions save lives.
I know I'm not saying anything you haven't heard before, but if you're like me, you're probably still somewhat hand wavy about feeling bad for that bad stuff that happens to people sometimes who are not you.
True, Leukemia hasn't happened to me, personally. It did remove individuals from my life who I used to be able to see and talk with and hear their voices and feel their hugs and have their presence in my life.
But, since these people are my family, I very well could have that sneaky genome for Leukemia lurking in my system, to someday steal me from my daughter, my family. And if that happens, I want to fight. I want more time.
I like being alive. As I'm guessing, most people do.
I hardly ever think about how at least three pints are needed for a transfusion, and that in the event of an accident, if I'm taken to the hospital, that those pints are already there on the shelf.
Because someone made the conscious contribution to save my life.
I'm asking for your help in this. One pint of your blood has several different components and has the potential to save three lives. Three human beings.
Sure it's uncomfortable, but it's an easy way to make the world a better place by giving the least of yourself so that someone else can live.
Be a donor.
If you're in the local Tri-Cities area, come to the &yet office at 110 Gage Boulevard, Suite 100 in Richland, Washington this Tuesday, September 30 from 10 am to 3 pm. I will greet you at the door.
If you're inspired to donate in your area, visit the American Red Cross at www.redcrossblood.org to find a drive or center in your area. (It's easy, I promise, there's a blue box at the top right hand corner that says "Give Blood. Find a Blood Drive.")
Every little bit counts.