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The Truth About the Fact: An International Journal of Literary Nonfiction

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Blood


On October 15, 2005, a 15-year-old boy started having stomach cramps. A few days later, he began losing blood through his stool. This continued and worsened for two weeks, at which point he was weak and in severe pain. At the doctor’s office, his blood was drawn and he was told he was extremely anemic. Sent to the ER, he received a blood transfusion. After a series of tests, he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and remained in the hospital until Halloween. He was taking 21 medications per day during his recovery.

This was/is one of my closest friends. The blood transfusion saved his life. His red blood cell count was a third of what it was supposed to be.

Last week I sat in a recliner and watched as blood drained from me. As I sat there, I thought of my friend. Someone’s blood donation saved his life. I can think of no better way to thank the anonymous donor than to give blood on a regular basis.

For each donation, a person provides about a pint of blood. Each unit of blood is divided into red blood cells, plasma, platelets, and cryoprecipitated anti-hemophilic factor. Red blood cells are usually used in cases of trauma or surgery. Plasma is given to patients with clotting. Platelets and cryoprecipitated anti-hemophilic factor are used to help clot the blood in open wounds.

Over a million new people are diagnosed with cancer each year and a lot of them, sometimes daily, need blood during chemotherapy. One car accident victim can need up to 100 pints of blood. Every two seconds, someone in the United States needs blood and over 38,000 blood donations are required every day. People who donate blood most often cite their reasons: to help others, to feel good about themselves, to help local hospitals and to compensate for the blood transfusions of friends or family in the past.

The most common reason people give for not donating blood is that they never thought about it or they are afraid of needles. If just a few of them can overcome their fear, they can help to achieve the quota. As soon as 24 hours after a donation, that blood can be used by a cancer patient, a trauma victim, or a sick infant. While blood donation is simple and requires minimal effort, it is a crucial contribution to both the community and one or more individuals.

Many people are terrified of donating blood. Some, like my mother, are not able to because it makes them faint or otherwise risks their own health. But I have enjoyed it. It periodically provides me with a break in the day with no significant cost and substantial rewards. I might get lightheaded – not necessarily a bad thing – and I know that I helped. With a blood donation, I make not effort except for the sacrifice of a mere hour. Yet in that time, I may have helped save three lives.


-Colleen Bouey

1 Comments:

Anonymous Michelle Mitchell said...

Colleen,

This was a very touching story. I especially liked your opening because it drew me in right away and is so real. A friend of mine was diagnosed with leukemia and needed a marrow donor. I thought of all the times people asked me to donate blood or even simply sign up and I was too afraid or "busy," but when I hear stories like yours and mine, I think why am I so selfish. It changes you when it comes so close, but it is nice when you change before then.

Thanks for sharing your story.

February 23, 2011 at 12:25 PM  

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