Thursday, June 02, 2005

Lifeblood

As some of you may know, I am a regular blood donor. The first time I gave was back in university. I had some time to kill in between classes, and thought it wouldn't hurt to bleed a bit, then sit in a lounge chair munching cookies for a little while.

I gave sporadically over the years, usually when the clinic came to school or to a mall near my office. Sometimes they’d call and ask me to come down. Despite my intense hatred of needles, it was always a pretty easy thing to do.

Soon after moving to London, I started donating plasma. I got into a groove thanks to an amazing bunch of people at work who would go every week, no matter what. The leader of our merry band would, on his own volition, use his own vehicle to bring everyone to the clinic. He recruited newcomers to the group and somehow managed to make it into the highlight of everyone's week.

Leaving the company was difficult not because of the work - which I grew to no longer enjoy - or the leadership - which was morally bankrupt - but because I didn't get to hang for a couple of hours every week with these incredible people.

Still, I kept going when I joined my new firm. That's the cool thing about plasma: you can give weekly (vs. every eight weeks for whole blood.) I also love the cookies they have for donors – chocolate whippets, just like when I was a kid – so it’s pretty much a no-brainer for me to go down and shnarf a few. They even have oatmeal and soup – though, thankfully, not together.

Last night, I was privileged to attend a donor recognition night with my wife. I got a certificate - nice, but completely unnecessary - and was able to reconfirm why this thing matters so much to me:

  • I really like the cookies.
  • It’s life-affirming to be around the same caring, devoted people week after week. Donors, nurses, staff and volunteers at the clinic are likely some of the most inspiring people you’ll ever meet. That’s gold for a writer like me.
  • Fear of needles is not a big enough excuse to stay away. If I ever get sick, I doubt I’d refuse treatment because I hate being jabbed.
  • Barely 3.5% of Canadians who are eligible to donate actually do. If we don’t look out for folks around us who are in need, who will? Fear of an empty blood bank frightens me beyond belief.
  • Community was an important part of my upbringing, and I want it to be an important part of my children's as well. This is one way to show them that sometimes you do things not because you expect something back, but because it’s good for others.
  • I still really like the cookies. Though truth be told, I'd go even if they didn't stuff me silly.

As in past years, a recipient was asked to speak. Her name is Samar Chaker, a 17 year-old who, just over 6 years ago, almost died from Aplastic Anemia. Transfusions kept her alive so she could fight it off and, miraculously, survive. By the time she finished speaking, there was not a dry eye in the house.

Her speech is here. Please read it, then think about whether you’d like to come on down, shnarf some cookies, meet some cool people and do something nice for someone you’ve never met. If you're in London, pop by first thing any Friday morning and say hi. I'll save you a cookie.

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Cool readings:

12 comments:

Thumper said...

Dang. The cookies sound really good. Too bad they won't take my blood...

If I drag my kid in and let them take blood from him, think they've give me a cookies, too?

(he does donate...not sure what kind of cookies he gets, but he sure never shares them!)

Christine said...

Excellent post! I really should donate more often then I do. My parents both donate - they go in regularly and donate plasma or blood - whatever they need. It's a wonderful thing to do for someone else - perhaps even for someone you know and love - you never know...

jadedprimadonna said...

I like the cookies too, lol! Sometimes at our donor center, they have lots more though. They call me every 52 days, and I always go. It never takes very long, and I always leave feeling like I've done something beneficial for someone else that day. It's not always possible to have that feeling each day, so I think it's well worth a little pin prick.

L said...

I always heard that donating plasma hurts more than giving blood... is that true? I suppose I am a bit nervous of needles...

Carmi said...

It doesn't hurt at all. Sure, the needle pricks a bit for the first blink of an eye. Then you feel nothing. There is no pain at all. And their giant reclining chairs are the most relaxing things you will ever sit in. Naps have been known to spontaneously occur.

jlybn123 said...

That is a wonderful thing you are doing! You should be commended for it. Haven't read the speech yet, but that is next on my list. I am also very grateful to those who donate...my dad recently received 3 blood transfusions during his battle with cancer. That wouldn't be possible without people like you!!! Thanks!!!

P.S. Wish I could donate like you do...have always been under the weight limit tho.

jlybn123 said...

Ok, I read it and now have tears in my eyes and a huge lump in my throat! That was pretty powerful!! Wow!

Kate said...

I'll have to check and see if I'm eligible to donate.
Good post.

Jezzy said...

Good on you. I do it even though no one can find my veins and they have to poke me two to three times! It's the free food, I loves the free food!!

Maria said...

Would love to donate, but they won't take my blood. Of course, giving blood is not the only way to help. After all some one has to pass out those cookies. Enjoyed your site. Michele sent me.

Ms Mac said...

I'm with Maria, every time I have tried to give blood in the past they have refused to take it from me. And now that I'm a foreigner with a past in the UK while the CJD thing was going on, they definitely won't take it!

I want to be in your cookie club but nobody will let me!

Samar said...

Hello Carmi, and everyone else. This is Samar Chaker. I can not tell you all how touched I was by this website. As I write this comment I have tears rolling down my eyes. What all of you are doing is wonderful, Believe me you are all hero's if it weren't for wonderful individuals like you I would never have gotten my second chance. Thank you for letting me experience more of this wonderful life and allowing me the opportunity to fulfil my dream of helping others. You are all so wonderful! God Bless!
Samar Chaker