I am a little embarrassed to say that I have never donated blood. As a young adult, I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and, as a result of frequent flare-ups, was very thin. When I considered giving blood at that time, I was under the weight requirement. I didn’t think much about it again until I began to create my 50 feats list and wanted to have some that involved giving back to my community.
According to Canadian Blood Services (blood.ca), 50% of Canadians will need blood, or know someone else who does, at some point in their lives. Yet, only 4% of Canadians actually donate. Given that my blood type, A negative, is shared by only 4% of the population, I was even more excited about being able to help someone in need through my blood donation.
I signed up for a clinic that was at a local church. When I arrived, I was surprised by the number of cars in the parking lot and even more so when I entered – the church hall was alive with people. A friendly volunteer named Janet gave me a number and, while I waited, I chatted with her about this being my first time giving blood. She enthusiastically thanked me for choosing to donate.
My first stop was to have a small blood sample taken from my finger to check my iron level. A lovely, young woman explained the process to me as she worked, all the while smiling despite the numerous hours she had already laboured. A quick check showed that my iron level was within the normal range
Having passed the first test (since achieving the weight minimum was clearly not a stumbling block for me anymore), up next was a questionnaire regarding my health. While I waited for my number to be called this time, I was entertained by a little, blonde girl who had accompanied her parents to the clinic. She danced, and skipped about under the watchful eyes of her Mom and Dad, and for those of us awaiting our turn, she brought smiles to our faces and made the time fly.
It was quickly my turn; a lovely nurse ushered me into a cubical and took my blood pressure and pulse before reviewing my questionnaire with me. I chatted with the nurse as she performed the tests, explaining my 50 Feats at 50 adventure and why I had chosen donating blood as one of my “firsts”. She said she was inspired by the idea, that perhaps she would put together her own list.
When we go to the question regarding cancer and Crohn’s disease, I explained that I had ulcerative colitis, but that it was well controlled with maintenance drugs. She consulted her manual and showed me the section on ulcerative colitis that excluded donations from those using medication. While the reason I take medication is to reduce the potential of flare-ups, it meant that I was ineligible to donate. The nurse explained that the standard was in place in order to protect my health. Every person has approximately 5 litres of blood and 450 ml is collected in one donation; the loss of nearly 1/10th of a person’s blood volume can cause a strain on the body which is not a problem for most healthy people, but could negatively impact my disease.
The nurse was incredibly supportive and took time to fully explain my situation. The standards do sometimes change over time, so she suggested there was a chance I could give in the future. She proposed another way of fulfilling my feat: by encouraging friends and family to donate.
As I left the building, I reflected on my situation. The truth is, I was disappointed to not be able to donate. But, I recognize that not everything works out in life the way we plan. I am the poster child for events taking a different kind of a turn; yet, I am also the greatest proponent of boldly taking that left turn and seeing where it leads. That’s just part of the adventure.
While my feat did not end with my blood donation, it did give me insight into the many people in my community who do choose to give back through their regular donations, by volunteering their time to make the whole experience possible, and educating people like me about the process. Everyone I met was encouraging, warm, and sincerely thankful for the opportunity to both give and receive.
My feat began with an intention to give blood, but perhaps the feat that I was meant to perform was to illustrate for others how beautiful giving the gift of life can be. There was a glow in that clinic hall from all the smiling faces and I could feel the warmth of every open heart (okay, there was a heat wave, but I believe it was the good karma in the room).
I hope that, like the kind nurse suggested, by sharing my experience, I might inspire someone else – or maybe a few others – to donate. If you do, I send you my heartfelt thanks in the knowledge that my 3rd feat has been completed vicariously though my community of beautiful connections.
Next up: A classical read, then a week-long walking tour around the Isle of Wight. For those who might wish to join me for other upcoming feats in the Fall, here’s a few in the works that might lend themselves to Feats with Friends: learning archery, going to a fortune teller, bird watching, getting a makeover, having formal afternoon tea, eating escargot, riding in a helicopter, going to a dog show, volunteering at a shelter, learning to belly dance, hot air ballooning. If you’d like to join in, or suggest another feat, feel free to leave me a message on my site (SilverLiningFrog.com) or by email (firstname.lastname@example.org).