I had an extraordinary experience today that gave me even more motivation to maintain my health and fitness.
I’ve been donating blood products to a local hospital for years. Through the years, what kept me going was both the knowledge that this simple act might be important for someone’s life and that I felt a special sort of vitality in being able to donate blood.
I know many people who can’t donate due to their health or medications, and I felt both gratitude and pride that I could and did. That’s why, when I was temporarily unable to donate due to a treatment I was receiving, I felt especially distressed. It meant I wasn’t healthy.
It’s a weird mindset, and one I wasn’t aware of until I was banned. During the few years when I couldn’t donate, I examined my reasons and worked on getting personal validation back where it belonged: inside.
Eventually, I was able to donate again. But things had changed.
The blood center now screens for antibodies that can cause problems for transplants. These antibodies are more common in women who have been pregnant. In fact, I have them. That means I can’t donate platelets or plasma ever again. That leaves me with my 1 pint every 8 weeks of highly uncommon blood. I mean, not many can use it. Added to the facelessness of who had been benefiting from my donations was now the knowledge that my donation would always be tiny and, so, unimportant.
Despite my disappointment, I made my appointment and continued to donate because at least it’s one more pint, right?
Today, at my donation they told me they had matched me to a patient. That is, they have certain patients that they match with a donor because they need a specific type of whole blood that is fresh within 7 days. They told me they were glad I came in when I did because they had a patient with sickle cell who needed my blood for a transfusion.
As I lay in the seat while blood was leaving me, I wondered about this person. An actual specific person. I’d always had this image of a room with labeled bags and no real image of any patients. I don’t know the name or gender or age, but I know there is a specific person at the hospital this week who will be using my blood for a specific disease. A disease that will likely shorten their life.
On the way home, I was thinking about what to eat for lunch. I found myself mentally crossing out things as I decided on eating the best food I could. Of course, I make these choices daily with the thought that I want to be around a long time for my children — indeed, this was the motivation years ago when I got labs back from my doctor that suggested my future was diabetes and heart disease. That’s always driven me.
Now, I found I had a new motivation for eating only the most nutritional food and staying fit. I’m giving my blood to someone who is not as healthy as I am. I mean a specific person who lives here in town with me and wasn’t as lucky with their health as I am. Donating blood is now more of a personal experience, not just a date with machines and warehousing.
So…every 8 weeks.