I’m Donating Blood Today So Here’s A Post About Blood and Organ Donation!

(Warning: Picture of me donating blood below, in case that will bother you.)

One thing you may not know about me is that I am a big believer in donating blood and being an organ donor. I have attempted to donate blood at least twice as many times as I have actually donated, usually because my iron is too low (one time it was because I’d been outside of the country within a certain time frame). I try to donate blood at least a couple times a year, usually I only get around to doing it (successfully) two or three times, but I figure that’s better than zero. I was going to donate a couple months ago, but I had COVID at the time of the blood drive at my high school (that’s where I always donate (except that one time I donated in Boston because Arisia had a blood mobile outside)).

Now that I no longer have COVID, but probably still have the antibodies, I find it more important now than ever to go and donate! So that’s what I’m doing today!

Due to COVID, blood donation rates have drastically decreased. Hospitals are desperately in need of blood donations more now than ever. If you’ve never donated before, but would maybe like to give it a try, there is no time like the present!

I know a lot of people that can’t donate. In fact, less than 38% of the population is able to give blood (though less than ten percent of that 38 actually donate annually). I’m sure part of this is due to the restrictions placed on LGBTQA+ people that are potential donors, but are turned away because of the FDA’s regulations regarding “men who have sex with men”.

I actually had to look up the restrictions, because my basic understanding of it was “gay people can’t donate.” While that is essentially the case, I learned a lot of interesting information about it from this Red Cross page.

While this is a deeply upsetting/unfair restriction and I do not support it, I still think it’s important for anyone who can donate to do so.

Also according to Red Cross, someone in the US needs blood every 2 seconds. There’s 86,400 seconds in a day! It’s very obvious that blood is in high demand, so I think it’s really important that if you’re able to, you help meet that demand.

Basically, I see donating blood as a civic duty. Not in a ridiculous way, of course. Like it shouldn’t be mandatory to donate a certain number of times per year or anything. I mean like, if you have the chance to, you should totally take it. You could save lives!

Same thing with organ donation. I feel that is not only my duty, but a privilege, to be an organ donor. Knowing that so much good could come from me dying is a reassuring thought. Isn’t it incredible to know that you have the potential to save (up to) eight lives? Or give people sight? You can literally be the difference between life and death for so many people.

One of the most common arguments I’ve heard from people who are against donating is that their faith doesn’t allow them to. I have no personal faith, so I’ve never been able to argue this claim, however while doing research for this post I came across this page stating that pretty much every religion has decided it’s okay to be an organ donor! In fact, it’s encouraged!

Other than the religious aspect of it, a lot of people also believe that if they’re an organ donor, doctors won’t try to save them. This has been debunked by many many many doctors time and time again. They will do everything in their power to save your life, regardless if you are a donor or not. Oftentimes they don’t even know if you’re a donor until after you’ve died.

The way I see it, if someone you love was dying and needed an organ transplant, wouldn’t you wish desperately for someone to be generous enough to part with theirs after death so that the person you love may have a second chance to live? Also could apply to you! If you needed a transplant, wouldn’t you be grateful that someone was willing to have their organs donated after death so that you could continue to live?

You can be that person to someone else. You can be someone else’s second shot at life. You could save a child’s parent, somebody’s best friend, a mother’s only child, there’s so many people you could help. I can think of no greater honor than to gift life to someone in need.

Going back to blood donation, which is a much less serious commitment, I know that it can be a scary thing to think about, especially if you’re not a big fan of needles. The first time I donated, I mentioned to the nurse that was nervous about the seemingly giant needle going into my arm. She told me that the finger prick they do to test your iron beforehand is more painful than the actual donation part. She was totally right.

Not only did the finger prick hurt more than the needle in my arm, but it was sore for a couple days after, whereas my arm didn’t hurt at all. (Please do not let a little finger prick deter you from donating.)

There’s so many good parts about donating! You get free merch, like a cool mug or soup bowl, or t-shirts and whatnot, plus you get cookies and juice! Who doesn’t love cookies and juice? And, a few weeks after you donate, you’ll more than likely get a call that tells you that your blood was used to save a life that day. Sometimes they’ll tell you which hospital it ended up at, too.

Besides the cookies and t-shirt, there’s really no immediate benefit to donating. It’s honestly more about if altruism makes you feel good. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being happy that you did something good. Likewise, it’s okay to feel good about yourself after doing something generous. Helping others feels nice. Being generous is its own reward. But, again, cookies!

If you want to learn more about organ donation or register to be an organ donor, you can do so here! As for blood donation, you can find locations to donate and schedule an appointment here! I didn’t really talk about donating bone marrow specifically because I have never done so, however my friend has donated bone marrow and recommended Be The Match. Join me in joining the registry! (I’m honestly shocked I’ve never signed up before now.)

So, yeah, my thinking is basically, do what you can when you can. If you’re someone who is able to donate, just try to every once in a while and I think that’s good enough. If you can’t donate at all, that’s okay, too.

Well, I’m off to enjoy my thin, scratchy t-shirt and free cookie. Have a great day!

-AMS

73 Comments on “I’m Donating Blood Today So Here’s A Post About Blood and Organ Donation!”

  1. I usually do the double-red ( aka Power Red) donations. One reason for this is they use a smaller needle. I’ve been regularly donating ever since there was a blood drive at our high school many years ago. It is a good habit.

  2. Thank you so much for doing this. I’m one of the people who can’t donate due to illness; I’ve still tried from time to time, but end up having problems afterwards. I’m so glad you’ve not only made this effort but have also taken the time to write about it and to encourage others. Way to go!

  3. This is a great overview of an important topic, Athena – will share.

    Yeah, the idea that religions forbid donating – that is ridiculous. (And yet another sign that a lot of religions have lost their cores, and can be used to justify anything, including and especially selfishness.)

    I donated a kidney a few years back, and it was one of the best things I’ve ever done. I wrote about it here: https://www.hillaryrettig.com/tag/kidney/

    They did the surgery laparascopically and so the recovery time for me was nil. Also, the health outcomes for donors are excellent – no statistical impacts at all.

    I wish I could do it again!

    One thing that would help a lot is if the US would switch from an opt-in to an opt-out donor system. So instead of having to fill out a card (e.g., your driver’s license) if you want to donate, you have to fill out one if you don’t. That small step – which many countries have embraced – would all by itself save tens or hundreds of thousands of lives a year.

  4. Alas, I’m also one of the people whose iron is too low(ever since they changed the guidelines some years back).

    Before that, I’d donated regularly over the previous several decades.

  5. Go You. It’s a worthwhile thing that can literally be the gift of life.

    I started donating when a friend had an emergency c-section and needed a lot of blood. I’m up to 89 donations now, though about half of them are Plasma.

    After the Christchurch earthquakes in 2010, the hospitals weren’t getting as much blood donations and so were trying to reduce the amount used in operations, and (according to the NZ Blood service) had better outcomes for the patients. So after that they’ve been trying to convert people to plasma donors.

    You can donate more often (New Zealand lets you donate blood once per 3 months, or plasma once per 2 weeks) and they have so many things they can do with it, from immediate increasing blood volume on accident victims, to treating burn victims, and a lot of new medicines are being made on a blood plasma base (all based on what the nurses tell me, no links sorry)

    It’s an inconvenience sometimes, but it’s one of the more purely altruistic things I can do.

  6. (except that one time I donated in Boston because Arisia had a blood mobile outside)

    Today’s mental gear grinding moment brought to you by the context dependent pronunciation of the word “mobile.”

    First: MOE-b’l
    Second: moe-BEELE

    (Or, should “bloodmobile” not have a space in it? The gears, they grind.)

  7. Thank you, Athena, for donating blood! You are so correct that it is vitally important, and I am delighted (not surprised, though) to learn that you participate.

    I am no longer able to donate due to a health problem, but racked up several gallons worth when I was in my 30s and 40s. My spouse earned his 16-gallon pin before he had to stop for a medical reason.

    The real champion in our family was my late mother. She was a six-times-a-year donor from age about 19 or 20, and with the exception of her pregnancies, continued donating at that rate right up until she was diagnosed at age 60 with the breast cancer that ultimately killed her. She said once that the single hardest thing to deal with about the diagnosis was not the surgery, disfigurement, chemotherapy, or radiation, but rather the knowledge that her blood was no longer acceptable to donate. From that point until she died, every holiday card or letter she sent out encouraged people to go donate a pint since she no longer could. And her obituary asked for blood donations in her memory instead of flowers.

    Keep on donating blood, Athena, and thank you!

  8. Paul Garbett – Retired from a career (series of jobs) in IT latterly specialising in Software Testing. Almost archetypal Grumpy Old Man with the potential to be irritated by just about anything
    Paul Garbett

    I know blood donation is different here in the UK but I agree it is a public duty. My late mother took me along when she donated and it was natural for me to start as soon as I was able (nearly 50 years ago now!) We get a cup of tea and a biscuit on each (6 monthly) visit and a really neat badge or pin at significant points (25, 50 donations, etc.) Good for you and I hope you are as zealous as I was at your age in recruiting new donors

  9. I spent too many months in England during the mad cow era, so Red Cross won’t accept my blood now, which makes me sad. I keep hoping they will come up with a screening test that would allow me to do it again — it was such an easy thing for me to do to benefit other people!

  10. I tried donating blood in the 80s and couldn’t because of something I had as a kid. Haven’t tried since.

    As for my body, you can do what you want with it, I’ve had that organ donator dot on my driver’s license since I was 16. Just make sure I’m dead first. I’ll probably be cremated and scattered over a body of water. Knowing my sister that will be a toilet.

  11. I used to give too, when I could.

    My favorite organ donor story:

    A friend had a new heart and was telling a couple of us about it. “I was told it was from someone in the military, so I figured, I have the heart of a fighter! Then I read an article about a marine who was killed when caught in bed with another man’s wife, and found out it was the same guy, so I figured, I have the heart of a lover!” Other friend who was present: “You have the heart of a dumbass!”

  12. Thanks for this, Athena. Just want to throw out there that blood products are also used at the end of life, in limited amounts, to give symptom relief and therefore to give people meaningful time to say goodbye. It is truly priceless, and every time I hung up a bag for a patient I thought about all the people who gave up some time and discomfort so that my patient could have this incredible, precious resource. Strangers were helping me take care of someone they’d never even know. What an amazing thing.

  13. Post-COVID19 plasma helped save my aunt’s life late last year, so thank you both for donating and for this post!

  14. Good on you for donating! Like Blinde upthread i am also in New Zealand & have been a regular donor, initially whole blood, but these days I’m a plasma donor.

  15. Good for you.

    Been donating since I was 18. Now 50.
    A proud member of the 10 gallon club.

    I personally think the default should be organ donation. Unless you declare you are not an organ donor they should be allowed to scavenge whatever the hell they can to save peoples lives.

    Something else you should look into is whole body donation to a teaching hospital. My whole family is on the list to do so to Tufts University Med School.

    First they take any organs that can be donated if you are an organ donor. Then they ship your body off to a medical school so a student can cut you up learning to be a doctor. After that they cremate your body and return the ashes to your family. Usually two to three years later.

    Almost every medical school in the US has a program of this type.

  16. Thank you for donating and being an organ donor. I do both as well (that is, I haven’t been an organ donor yet, but am signed up).

    These are good ways to help you ensure that the good you do in your life exceeda the harm.

  17. Thank you for donating! And thank you for mentioning the restrictions on MSM donating blood. My boyfriend and I are both perfect candidates for donating, but aren’t allowed. I am surprised at how few people are aware of the restrictions in place, and the more people advocating the change the better.

  18. Well done. If you want to be hard-core, consider donating Platelets if your blood center is set up to collect them. You can actually do this every week, up to 20 times a year if memory serves. I’ve been doing it every other week recently, it’s good to be able to do something during the Pandemic.

    Platelets are particularly needed to help people doing Chemo, so you’ll be treated like a Rock Star by your local Vampire coven. You get hooked up to a machine that goes “Ping!” with two needles, one that taketh and one that returneth. Takes about 2 hours door to door.

    Protip: If you are a rightie, ask them to draw from your left elbow and return to the right wrist/forearm (as opposed to using both elbows). That will allow you to use your right hand to control your phone/tablet.

    Finally, if you have marginal blood iron, take iron pills. When I was doing power reds, I would often be just under the threshold for that and have to do a regular, but taking an iron pill a day for a few days before the appointment cured that.

    Oh, and our blood center has a new lancet used for the finger prick that doesn’t really hurt at all. It’s kind of circular with little bumps around the perimeter that provide a distracting sensation.

  19. Thanks for doing that, Athena! If you’d like a pin from the Ghost of Robert Heinlein thanking you for your donation (he was a big supporter of volunteer blood donation) the Heinlein Society would love to mail you one. You can send your mailing info where you’d like the pin to chair man atttt heinlein society d000t org and I’ll make sure we get one out to you. In this year of no contact the Heinlein Society is giving this treat as long as we see proof someone attempted to donate.

  20. Hope the donation went smoothly, Athena! I had Covid back in November and yesterday afternoon, after 3 or 4 unsuccessful attempts due to low hemoglobin, they finally accepted me to donate Convalescent Plasma (in great demand these days). That’s the one where they take blood out of one arm, run it through an apheresis machine to filter out the plasma and then return red cells and the rest of the blood back into your body through the other arm. I lay on that raised cot for almost three hours watching Bridgerton on Netflix (with the wall screen and their headphones) while the blood slowly filtered through.

    Apparently you can donate plasma again after 7 days, so I’ve already scheduled another donation for the first week of March. I figure I’d like to donate my hard-won antibody filled Convalescent Plasma a few times before tracking down an appointment to get my first Covid vaccine shot. Because I gather they make you wait at least three months after vaccination before they allow you to donate plasma (or blood at all) again, and I don’t want to “waste” my useful plasma when probably more patients need it now while vaccination is still new and rare.

    I got a tee shirt, a juice box, a protein bar (in lieu of crunchy snacks) and, later, a $10 gift card from Amazon for donating plasma during February.

    GO BLOOD DONORS!

  21. Well done on being a blood donor.

    I always intended to be a donor when I was old enough, but then I found it was my 19th birthday and I hadn’t found time to go to donate. I went to the next session.

    I gave my 75th donation on 14th December 2020. I’m hoping to get to 100 donations before I have to stop.

    Not everyone is able to give blood, so those of us who are fortunate enough to be able to do so, should make the time to do it.

  22. Tried donating once but didn’t work well unfortunately. The elbow blood draw for basic blood tests isn’t so bad (still can’t figure out why they drew from my finger as a kid given the previously mentioned pain issues of sticking one of the most sensitive portions of the body, way to give children a needle complex!) but I just couldn’t keep myself distracted enough from the much longer donation process. After they wound up having to smelling salts me the one time I donated, I decided not to try it again and cause more trouble. I am an organ donor though, pretty sure I’ll be beyond smelling salts if that ever comes up!

  23. Such a great thing to do.

    I wish I could donate. I’m a universal donor and I would donate every 6 weeks if I could. Between travel and medications, it took me a very long time to get to 1 gallon. Now, because of disease exposure, I can’t donate at all. Every now and then I check to see if the rules have changed, just in case. [checks the intarwebs] Nope. :-<

  24. Glad to hear this Athena! For you and any others with the low iron issue: after getting rejected a couple of times for that, I started taking an iron tablet (65 mg) every other day and haven’t had any problems since.

  25. Thanks, Athena.

    Background: When my daughter turned 16 and I asked her what she wanted to do to celebrate the occasion she said she wanted to do a father-daugher donation. Which we did — great memory.

    Fast-forward nearly twenty years, and she might end up being a marrow donor for her father. My days of donating blood are done (and I didn’t quite make 15 gallons) but until I get back into producing my own erythrocytes, I’m dependent on others — like you — for transfusions to keep me alive.

    Probably not you personally, but someone. Please take a bow.

  26. I’m O neg and Canadian blood services calls me if I go too long without coming in. There has also been a drop in donations here, so thanks for raising awareness!

  27. I’m always grateful to hear of others who donate blood – I can’t bring myself to try. HUUUUGE needle phobia! (got more than a little nauseated just reading about it in your blog post! LOL!) Just regular annual blood draws are a Big Deal for me, that takes a lot of pre-destressing to be able to do. though I kinda figure my jehovahs witness husband, who will not take a blood transfusion, kinda balances out our household?

    I am ABSOLUTELY an organ donor – my late uncle gained an extra 20 years of life from a liver transplant. got to see his girls grow up, walk one down the isle, see 2 of his granddaughters born. we are all SO GRATEFUL to his donor for the extra time he was given.

  28. Thank you, Athena for using your platform for these important messages. I have been donating blood regularly for over 50 years…yes, you do have some older readers! My nephew is alive because someone generously donated their kidney and liver to replace the failing organs he was born with. In Colorado, they are thrilled with the blood of COVID survivors, apparently using it as a treatment option. Enjoy your cookie!

  29. Incidentally, to anyone with iron deficiency who has… digestive… problems with iron pills, pick a breakfast cereal that you are fine with eating dry and eat a serving as your afternoon snack without milk (calcium and iron interfere with each others’ absorption) along with something providing at least ~35mg of vitamin C (to maximize the absorption of the non-heme iron that they fortify breakfast cereals with – doesn’t matter whether the vitamin C is kool-aid or an orange or tablet form, just needs to be in the digestive system along with the cereal). This has worked well for myself and for others with iron shortages.

  30. Long time blood donor here but I always forget to donate. They call pretty often when they want my type.

    In Australia we must get spoilt for treats. I get a milk shake. A couple of party sausage rolls and pies. Some biscuits. Bottle of water.

    I heard somewhere in the last year or so that donating blood even once reduces your chance of heart attack. (Maybe the Naked Scientists excellent podcast)

  31. I donated at Kansas City Worldcon a few years back. The local blood bank had me on their call list for quite a while before realizing that I wasn’t going to go to teir blood drives from LA.

  32. Fun fact – I donate blood for two reasons: 1, it’s just a good thing to do for society in general, as noted. 2, my family has a history of hemochromatosis, which is sort of the opposite of anemia – it means your blood has too much iron. The most common treatment for it is basically to give blood regularly. I don’t have it, but my dad and one of my uncles do.

    I find it morbidly amusing that my dad has one of the few diseases that, if he were in medieval times, the doctor/barber would be actually be able to help him with the leeches.

  33. Thanks for donating and encouraging others to do the same.

    I used to donate fairly regularly (especially back when I was a professor and the bloodmobile would come on campus).

    Unfortunately, a side effect of my getting sick last year is that I can’t ever donate again. :(

  34. So far I’ve tried to give blood three times this year. The first time, my car battery died and I couldn’t get to the center. The second time, I had a fever. The third time, a historically bad winter storm kept the bloodmobile away. (Born in California, currently living in Texas: we don’t really do ice and snow in either place.) Time to go make an appointment for another try!

  35. Good for you for donating and for publicizing the cause. I’ve been donating blood since first year university (it will be 50 years this fall). I’m in Canada so the blood collection used to be done by the Red Cross but there was a massive scandal during the beginning of the HIV/AIDs crisis and now we have a separate agency that collects blood and blood products. There is a central location for blood donations in most major cities and mobile labs are set up several times each year. In fact, that’s how I gave blood the first time because they came to my university. There have been a few changes in donation because of the pandemic. As far as I’m concerned the worst thing is that they don’t offer the very yummy cake donuts they always had. It was practically the only time I ate a donut and I miss it. Keep up the good work.

  36. I am a regular donor too, mostly of plasma as I have a very common blood type (A+) and they don’t often run low on it. I try to donate as close to every two weeks as is practical but every couple of years my immune system does something weird and throws out a false positive result for hepatitis-c. Even when it’s physically and logically impossible for the result to be a real positive the rules say I have to take a two year time out every time it happens.

    It’s annoying and frustrating that I can’t get the really good cookies for two years at a time (Australian donors know the cookies I mean).* I can’t even get Mrs Dalliard to donate and fetch me cookies as her iron is too low.

    The Australian Red Cross say that 1 in 3 people in this country will need blood or blood products some time in their life but that only 1 in 30 will donate. I can’t do my bit for at least another year and a half so if anyone else cares to step up while I’m on the bench that’d be great.

    Yes I know you can buy them in lots of stores but they’re not cheap and it doesn’t feel the same when you buy them with mere cash.

  37. Thanks so much for donating and spreading awareness about this issue! I started donating periodically as a young adult whenever the bloodmobile would stop at my workplace. My dad would often donate when I was a kid and I figured I might as well do it too.

    Now that I no longer work at a place that receives regular visits from the vampire truck, I go in to one of their physical locations. This is nice because they’re there every day. When I go in to donate, they can schedule my next appointment exactly eight weeks out in the same location and I’ve gotten into a regular schedule of donating as often as allowed.

    I will say that the “perks” definitely vary based on where you live. I always get cookies and juice afterward here in Seattle, but have never received a t-shirt or follow-up call saying where my blood went. I did get a $20 grocery gift card one time, so that was nice.

    Around here they also have a “tree of life” where they put engraved leaves with names of everyone who donates at least 100 times. Donate 200 times and you get your name on a big rock at the base of the tree. That will take 30 years of regular donations every eight weeks, so it’s a long-term goal for sure.

  38. Before the pandemic I used to donate blood regularly, every time I was eligible – 6 times a year, or almost that often. This has inspired me to schedule another appointment… I think the risk is low since the place is usually almost empty (and I assume they’re taking precautions).

    I tried to donate platelets – I was able to do it once and then got blacklisted for apparently having a low platelet count, something that apparently causes you to be barred for life :( (although they keep calling me and asking for platelet donations anyway). So it’s whole blood/red cells only…

  39. Glad you donated, it is so important. Never did til I met my wife, who started me down the road of frequent donations. We even did targeted donations for a friends sick baby which was awesome. Wife had to stop after getting cancer, and during the time she was sick, I slacked off. I have started up again, and try and go as often as I can especially now. I actually got a call from them today lol. Problem is in winter I tend to get bronchitis and colds easily so I am sometimes just too miserable to go. Especially when u don’t know if your cold is Covid for several days! With the terrible weather it’s been so hard to get out, thanks to 30”+ of snow in 10 days.

  40. For me, the blood supply and donation is a frustrating topic.

    My dear husband had an elective operation in 1981 (he was 25). Months in advance we asked if he could donate/bank his own blood, just as good practice. The surgeon pooh-poohed the idea (saying there was no way DH would need blood), and then in surgery he needed several units. Note: 1981! HIV was barely known, but it was in fact spreading. in the untested blood supply (although the risk was really very low). If DH had been infected, my rage at that surgeon would have burned down the Mayo Clinic.

    It’s definitely a good idea to start donating young (I did), because you never know when things will change.

    I got kicked off the donor list in my 40s — because I (a woman) had had had sex with a bisexual man. (I guess my fuddy-duddy self image is a bit off.) They said I could NOT age out of the restriction, even though I had already stopped seeing him or others.

    At some point later they lifted that restriction. I don’t know when; I wasn’t exactly checking back daily. By the time I learned of that, I had chronic conditions that made me ineligible. Faugh!

  41. I used to donate regularly. Then I lived in Europe for a while and now I am banned from donating. Hard to feel anything but angry at the industry that says living in Europe means your blood will never be acceptable again.

  42. Thank you for donating blood and educating your readers

    I was told in High School my rare blood type was deadly to most of the population

    Later I learned my rare BLOOD CELLS are deadly but my rare platelets, and rare plasma, is desperately needed for neonatal intensive care and military emergency field medical aid

    With modern technology ANY donation is separated into parts and all parts are useful. Even my deadly blood cells are used to test methods for converting all donations to “universal blood products”

    Whole donation are fast, and appreciated. Without a way to store blood cells more than 60 days, balancing supply and demand is hard

    But if you have the time, a few hours, platelet donation can be done more often, and is always needed since platelets can only be stored for 7 days

    When I last donated platelets, they let you watch movies on a personal dvd player and select from all the latest home releases. Hopefully I can donate platelets again now that I can medically be immobile for long periods of time. I could not for years. Yay modern medicine.

  43. Like others, my time in Europe in the 80’s makes me ineligible to donate. I hope that expires before I age out of donating, at some point you’d hope they’ll know you are so unlikely to have mad cow disease that it’s safe to donate.

    I remember at university they used to have “blood parties” after on-campus donation site days, because you could drink less and get drunk. Does that ever have 0 appeal now.

    I also remember Canada’s tainted blood scandal. So much preventable illness caused by a prioritization of cost savings over life and health – truly shameful.

  44. I one hundred percent endorse everything in this post. Alas I have been sadly slacking in my blood donations since my partner became permanently ineligible. The flip side of that is that everybody who is having trouble committing–get yourself a partner and make it a social activity. And when you donate, sign up for the next one right there.

  45. I started donating a couple of years ago and try to give blood when I can (about every two months). I haven’t been willing to do platelets, but I’m willing to give blood. It’s harder now because I’m at home – the Red Cross came to my work about every two months so it was easy to know when I should give blood.

    The Red Cross changed their advice in the last few years for males – it used to refuse blood donation from men who had sex with a man ever, then changed it to refusing donation from those who had sex with a man in the last 12 months, and now I think it only refuses donation from men who have had sex with a man in the last three months (though since you had the link up, the current regulation/advice should be there.

    Britain also had problems with negligence in testing blood – one of the people on Chemtwitter (Stuart Cantrill) lost his dad because he contracted HIV through contaminated blood.

  46. I actually donated yesterday. I try to do so regularly as my blood type is O- which they really like to get. I also happen to be CMV negative which means they can give my blood to newborns.

  47. Just to add my thanks for donating. I used to but since having cancer am now longer permitted to (this is in the UK, don’t know if the US or anywhere else has that rule) so particularly appreciate it when I hear about other people doing so. Cheers!

  48. This reminds me when I was in university there was a blood drive once a term and the faculties would have contests to see which one would donate the most. Some professors even offered bonus points on mid-terms for those that donated.

    I like to donate because I joke it’s my chance at immortality. Death is a surprisingly difficult thing to define. But one of the criteria is your blood has stopped flowing. I figure my donated blood must be in at least several dozen individuals. And if one of those individuals becomes a donor…. I could live for decades beyong my death! Whoohoo!

  49. I am well into the gold tier, donation-wise–it’s such an easy thing to do for the general weal. I used to give plasma (which is delightful: you watch a movie, wrapped in warm blankets and plied with drinks, while they take out blood, spin out the plasma, and pipe it right back in–sort of like a virtuous spa treatment) but they found that women who have been pregnant have something called HLA in their blood which a small percentage of recipients react badly to (there’s really no point in donating something that’s going to make someone sicker!) so it’s back to whole blood.

    And now that I am at least partly vaccinated, I’m brave enough to go give blood, so I’ve scheduled an appointment for Monday. Thanks for the reminder!

  50. My S.O. and I are donating blood together this afternoon! I have sometimes been delayed due to low iron levels, but I take supplements now which really help. I’m nearly to my first gallon! Blood donation is a no-brainer for me and I’m also an organ donor. Thank you for writing this post!

  51. Thank you for your donations. My sister needed whole blood on several occasions when she was young, and so does a friend of mine.

    I was a regular donor until a few years ago when my immune system collapsed and I started receiving antibody infusions, and I’d like to ask you to consider occasionally giving plasma donations. A lot of people don’t know what plasma is used for, let me tell you one way.

    My body literally does not produce antibodies, also known as immunoglobulin (Ig). If you measure my Ig levels, they’re functionally zero. We didn’t know that they’d been low all my life and production collapsed entirely in 2009, that year I had pneumonia five times in seven months. There are multiple kinds of Ig, the only kind that can be replaced is Type G, or IgG. Fortunately it’s the Ig that is the most active in fighting infection.

    And IgG is derived from plasma donations.

    If you go to a plasma center run by Griffols or CSL Behring, those are centers run by pharmaceutical companies that produce the antibody meds used to treat people like me. A lot of the other plasma centers take the plasma and sell it direct to cosmetics companies and other places that use plasma in their products.

    My meds contain antibodies pooled from approximately 10,000 donors, and as you can imagine, they’ve seen a lot of different illnesses, so it offers “us” a lot of defenses against illness. According to a webcast my wife listened to this week, it takes about 9 months for donations to make it through the processing/shipping process, so hopefully I may be receiving COVID-19 antibodies soon, which will be awesome! I did receive my first vaccination shot last week, and if I get my second shot on schedule, in early April I’ll be feeling a lot more comfortable while masked and at work (university library) and in public.

    These treatments aren’t fun, and I’ll be doing them weekly for the rest of my life, because without this medication, it’s a life of isolation, recurrent pneumonias, and no more life. And the meds are not cheap: without insurance, they’d be approximately $1700 every four weeks.

    Blood donations are great, and they definitely save lives. Plasma donations are also great, and save lives in a different way. And there’s a lot of people out there with this condition, Common Variable Immune Deficiency is the blanket and easily pronounced term, my specific problem is pan-hypogammaglobulinemia. Say that five times fast!

    It’s pretty scary stuff.

  52. Regarding that list of where religions stand on organ donation, I’ll note that Orthodox Judaism for the most part has a very strong stance against it. The official reason seems to be that at your eventual resurrection you’ll be incomplete. That has never made any sense to me whatsoever.

    I will also note that a large number of doctors are disturbed by the ever loosening standards regarding “brain death”.

  53. I’ve been “donating” plasma twice a week for three months now, every Wednesday and Saturday.

    Don’t give me too much credit, tho. There’s a reason In put donating in quotes. I only started after my hours at work were reduced due to Covid. Two donations nets me over a hundred extra dollars tax-free a week. In the beginning as a new donor there were incentives and I made even more.

    No one’s mentioned payment that I can see in these responses. There’s no payment for blood, only plasma? That’s seems weird.

  54. I thought that the refusal to pay for blood was because lots of people likely to have blood-borne diseases also were likely to donate for money (1980’s? – significant amounts of IV drug users in the paid donor population). Even if you test all of the donations, the tests have errors and for diseases that are bad, don’t have cures, or both, that would be a problem. (The higher the fraction of people likely to carry blood-borne disease means that more of the incorrect tests are likely to let blood capable of transmitting disease through to others.) I don’t know why that reasoning doesn’t hold for plasma, though, unless plasma can be be treated in a way that makes it less likely to transmit diseases. I don’t think they thought that the economy would suck enough on a regular basis that lots of people would have to donate blood for money to get by.

    The incompleteness at resurrection makes no sense to me – if you are being resurrected by an (omni-)potent being, I would assume that the same being could also recreate any missing parts (there’s not enough mass of people who have ever lived in the universe to violate conservation of mass, I think).

  55. Regarding organ donations:

    When Mrs. Numenaster died, I learned that issues that prevent one from donating blood (hepatitis infection, in her case) also mean most of your organs aren’t going to be reused to save lives. Her eyes were accepted for research and that was about it. The Lions did send a nice card though.

    So those of you WITHOUT past IV drug histories, thank you for donating organs.

  56. @JohnP – New Zealand, among many places, doesn’t pay for blood or plasma donations. I do get a cup of tea and a couple of biscuits though.

    I recall reading that when they started offering money in Canada for some blood products, the number of donations went down. If you’re paying me, and I have a job with reasonable money, then your money isn’t worth the inconvenience. If you’re not paying me, it must be because I’m a good person, I like thinking I’m a good person, so I donate – Congnative dissonance is a thing.

    There’s also a bunch of anecdotal stories about paid systems where people who really need the money might be less than truthful about their history if they think it will affect their chances of making a donation (and getting paid).

    NZ asks a bunch of questions about your risk factors (tattoos, intravenous drugs, sickness, sickness of family members, prescribed drugs stronger than aspirin etc, travel to places with Malaria/HIV) and depending on your answers can furlough you for 3 months, a year, or permanently. Some of the questions are to determine if it’s good for my health to donate (e.g recent injuries) others whether my donation is safe for whoever receives it.

    (Note that exposure to chickenpox is currently a question they ask where it’s a positive if you have, because then they can use your plasma for chickenpox vaccines)

    Last time I went to Africa, the country I visited is quite the HIV hot-zone, so they were asking me about whether I had had sex with anyone in that country.

    I have no monetary incentive to lie to them, so the blood supply in New Zealand is pretty good at being problem free. If they were paying me and I really needed the money, maybe I’d underplay or not mention risk factors.

    I wish your health system wasn’t a for-profit one, but I can’t help change that.

  57. Blinde- Yes, I have to answer the same questions as you every time I donate. They also extract blood sample from my finger for testing and do an arm check as well.

    I do feel bad that I never considered donating before I had the financial need. But one of the main reasons for that reluctance was my needle phobia. Let me tell you, the first time I donated I was very nervous. Now however, after nearly 30 donations I ‘m almost blasé about it. Still have to look away when they poke me. Don’t think I’ll ever be comfortable enough to watch that.

    I am glad that I’m also helping others while helping myself. I’m not a total a-hole.

  58. Well said, well done, and thank you, thank you.

    A benefit of being retired (former commercial pilot) is that it’s much easier to donate now. Before, I was grounded for 72 hours (company policy, FAA only required 24) after donating a single unit…usually couldn’t fit that into work schedule.

  59. I once received two units of blood because I hemorrhaged due to uterine fibroids (that was exciting). After that I donated a few times a year for about a decade, then I slacked off when in a stressful job. Time to get back to it. I am 6ft tall, weigh more than 180 and have large veins that make it super easy. Have never had multiple pokes.
    Also want to add, when you get a blood transfusion they have to use a pretty big needle/IV catheter which is, well, OUCH. For a long time after, blood draws, donations and shots felt like nothing.

  60. You go, girl!

    I started donating myself when I was 17, but it was infrequent until a few years later, when a friend of a friend went through 80 units of blood during a horrific car accident that cost them an arm. It was kind of a wake-up call to me that I really didn’t have an excuse for not giving blood, and since then I’ve donated 64 units total. :)

  61. Okay, appointment made for next Saturday (the 27th) for automated donation, which usually means platelets. I’m A+ so platelets is what they want from me — for a while they’d do platelets and plasma and leave my RBC’s alone, but then they discovered that I have an uncommon blood trait so they started taking those again.

    They sent me a letter about the blood trait which said it was shared by no more than 1 in 1000 people. Naturally I was curious, so I investigated, and it turned out that the letter was full of hype and really it was more like 1 in 6.

    (If you’re curious, look here and read about C/c: I have only C and no c proteins.)

    The Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center has better automated donation technology than some places. They only need to stick a needle in one arm, not both, and it takes about 70-80 minutes, not two hours. No direct payment, but you do get juice and cookies, and earn points that you can redeem for gift cards.

  62. Oh, and the GCRBC lets you sign up to get texted when they use your donation, which gives a really cool feeling when you receive one of those.

  63. With the mess Covid made of schedules at work (half the locations closed down for lack of business, I’m still employed but as a “floater” covering for anyone who needs it), blood donations won’t be an option unless they start opening the clinics on Sundays. However, I filled out the paperwork to go to the med center when I die a few years back.

    It seems odd that Orthodox Judaism would have a problem with a body being “incomplete” given that they’re against any form of preservation of a corpse — even the coffin has to decay rapidly (wood instead of metal). But I’m not Jewish; I only know about the coffin thing because Mom used to work for an Orthodox attorney and it became an issue after one of the clients died.

  64. I started giving blood BECAUSE I was afraid of needles (I had a bad experience in the hospital when I had my tonsils out) I figured part of it was at least partly because I already felt bad when I got stuck, so maybe I’d feel better about them I I was healthy and feeling good about what I was doing. It worked — I no longer fear needles, and I was a regular plasma donor for a while (needyo get back to that).

    Also, pro tip — I used to treat myself to a “blood bank meal” the night before — chicken liver & onions (I’m OK with the livers as long as there are plenty of onions) and carrot & raisin salad.

  65. Thank you, Athena, for this very timely reminder to donate blood if possible. I just got home tonight from my shift at a blood bank in one of the states that has been hit hard by the winter storms, and I can tell you that we are desperately low on Group O units, Rh pos and neg. Group O is the universal donor for red cells, which means if a person with a different blood type starts bleeding out and we run out of type-specific units, we can give them Group O blood instead. But if the person is Group O, they can ONLY receive Group O red blood cells. So if we run out of Group O red cells and a person who is group O needs them… too bad – we canNOT switch them, and if the trauma doctors can’t stop the bleeding or salvage the patient’s own blood some other way… they’ll die.

    I’m a medium time lurker/first time poster. I don’t know when Athena will close the comments on this and I know I’m late to the party (I’ve been working), but if anyone has questions about blood banking, I’d be happy to see if I can answer them. I’ve worked at both a hospital transfusion service and the reference lab for a blood bank. So I can answer questions about what I do at my job, what it means if you’ve made any antibodies, the process a unit of blood goes through before it gets to a patient, etc. Note – I do not draw blood (or interact with patients or donors at all), separate it into components, perform disease testing, etc. so my knowledge of the donor requirements and restrictions is a little murky. I have given blood myself – when I donated whole blood I then felt horrible a few hours later, but then started donating by apheresis and did fine (though can get pretty savagely hangry).

    I can also answer questions about how accurately blood banking is portrayed in movies and TV shows (spoiler alert: it’s not!) I’ve actually rage quitted a show over this!

  66. The last few times I tried to donate, I got rejected for marginal low iron. I started taking a supplement, but haven’t tried to donate again in a long time. I should get back to that.

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