Opinion

Blood donations: giving someone a chance at life | Tish Gregory

Do you remember your first day of school, the first time you drove a car, your first kiss, your first job, the birth of your first child? How about, the first time you gave blood?

I remember my first time. My friend was laying on the bed, blood slowly dripping out of her vein, when she noticed out of the corner of her eye someone being pushed in a wheelchair with their head on their chest. She was so impressed that someone with disabilities was able to donate blood.  And I was so embarrassed to tell her it was me and that I had fainted.

In the early days I experienced this discomfort often, but it never deterred me. My career in giving blood started at my work, where Boeing allows the Puget Sound Blood Mobile to come to the workplace on a regular basis (every eight weeks). Boeing management has always taken this community service seriously and in the early days even supported friendly competitions between organizations to see who could give the most.

Overall, Boeing has 9,500 participants in the region and the various Renton plant sites account for 1,200 Boeing workers donating regularly each year.

And let’s not overlook that other hot pocket for donations in Renton – the high school teenagers who register 450 donors per year, of which half or more are first-time donors.

When I lay at the blood bank giving blood, I can’t help but notice the posters on the wall promoting “Imagine Saving a Life.”  “But who’s life?” I often wondered. How uplifting it would be to meet them and see the transformation in their lives. But I never have.

That is until my brother-in-law was diagnosed with fourth-stage leukemia.   Although he lived in another state, we were in constant touch with him by phone.  The tone of his voice indicated how weak he was and the medical reports were sounding pretty dire.

One day the phone rang and a strong, upbeat voice said hello. I asked, “Who is this?”  It was my brother-in-law and he was so excited. “What happened”, I asked?  It turned out they completely removed all of his blood and replaced it with whole blood. He couldn’t say enough thanks to the “guys” who donated this healthy blood. And, I couldn’t help myself by saying, “and the girls.”  He paused and realized that blood knows no sex.

He wasn’t cured, but for a short time his life improved.

I know the slogan, “Save a Life,” is a bit of a stretch.  Truthfully, we don’t save everyone, but we do give them a chance – either a chance for recovery or a little more precious time to mend some bridges, resolve some issues, spend more time with family, experience new things or grow spiritually.

So, finally after all these years, I felt the indescribable joy and hope that people and families feel when someone is given the gift of blood by a fellow human being.  Perhaps, in time, the scientific world will find a replacement for whole blood.  Unfortunately, the bond between humans, that which makes us blood brothers and sisters, will be lost.

If you are currently a blood donor, thank you for your generosity and sacrifice.

If you would like to be a first-time donor and would like a “blood buddy” to go with you and walk you through the process, then please send me an email.

January is National Blood Donor month.  A new year would be a great time to experience a new first – giving blood and, hopefully, not needing it.

How to donate blood

To get more information on blood donations, check out the Puget Sound Blood Bank website.  To see if you qualify to give blood, highlight  “programs,” then “blood.”

The nearest Puget Sound Blood Center is located at:

130 Andover Park E.

Tukwila 98188

206-241-6300

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