OPINION: Be among the proud minority who donate

While I’ve “paid off” my debt of 22 transfusions...I still feel compelled to continue.

OPINION: Be among the proud minority who donate

I was blushing a little last week when it was announced on Facebook (not mine by the way) that the certificate recognizing my milestone 50th blood donation was finally mounted on a plaque.

Kudos came to me from all over, and stirred a little discomfort as I don’t donate for the accolades, but in a small way to pay back for the donations that many decades ago saved my life.

I received the certificate some months, and two subsequent donations, ago.

And while I’ve “paid off” my debt of 22 transfusions (which, by the way, I also paid for at $25 a pop since they were administered in the United States) I still feel compelled to continue.

Because, thanks to them, at least I’m here to complain about or praise life, and extoll the value of blood donations.

I also found out this weekend, courtesy of our daily newspapers, that only 3.7 per cent of people actually donate blood in this country, yet 52 per cent of Canadians say they or a family member have needed blood or blood products.

You would think with that disparity and that volume of blood consumption, more people would roll up their sleeves and spend an hour or so bleeding for the common good.

The actual taking of the blood takes only about five minutes through a relatively painless insertion of a needle.

The rest of the time is made up of questions relating mostly to your previous sexual activity or whether or not you have messed around with monkeys (those who donate will smile knowingly).

While much of the controversial content in the dailies’ feature stories related to the inappropriate and occasionally deadly administration of blood products to patients, the bottom line is that they do save a great many lives.

The errors are human, and not the fault of the donation or transfusion.

In fact, according to statistics and thanks to much improved screening over years past, the risk of contracting a disease today through receipt of blood is miniscule – something akin to winning the lottery: a possible occurrence but one that only few will experience.

What many will experience, however, particularly during the summer when people head off for vacations and the roads are busy, are car accidents.

Right now, and in the coming months, I’m certain the demand for blood products is high. The average number of transfusions needed to save a single car-crash life is 50, roughly the sum total of all my years of donating!

Add to the fact that a blood donation has a very brief shelf life. Platelets only last five days; 42 days for red blood cells.

Yet every 60 seconds someone in Canada will receive a transfusion.

So this summer, between the beach and barbecues, take 60 minutes to help save a life.

You have about five litres of blood within your body, and they take less than half a litre which is recovered very quickly.

You suffer no ill effects; it costs you nothing but a little time; and you will feel good about giving to others.

Besides, after donating you get a free drink and as many cookies as you can handle.