I Gave Red

I was reminded of the first t-shirt I ever got for donating blood at Bonfils. It was just after I’d graduated high-school, but I think before I started college. My Dad had donated at a work-based blood drive in the past, and there was a need for his blood type in particular, so Bonfils gave him a call.

We went out to breakfast at Dot’s (where we’ve been having breakfast since I was 2), and then walked into the donation center in Boulder.

We gave our pints, and got the t-shirt as a thank you. On the front were two check-boxes: “I gave red” and “I gave green”. I love that t-shirt. I’ve worn it to near-death and threatened to modify it in a number of different ways. Yet, it remains unmodified because I don’t want to risk ruining it.

It’s been approximately 10 years since that first donation, and I’m currently working on my 9th gallon of O+ given. My Dad and I still have breakfast at Dot’s, then donate (and then I get comic books, at Time Warp right next door – most awesome Saturday morning routine ever).

I realized that I’ve never really looked into the situations I’m supplying. I know what I know via exposure rather than attention. Bonfils is great with informing their donor community, and the occasional news story will mention community blood supply. More often, a sense of the blood supply shows up in the phrase “[patient] received [x] units of blood during surgery”. In fiction, that blood is always miraculously available – the hospital had it and there was no question (much like money in fiction – you notice how it’s always available when the plot requires?). Often in the news, blood makes an equally miraculous appearance – as if of course it’s going to be available whenever a patient needs.

I am gaining an appreciation for all that needs to happen in order for that to be true – because it’s often a balancing act, with medical personnel deciding between both the danger to the patient (receiving blood is no small matter, immune system wise) and availability of acceptable blood. Blood has a non-negotiable expiration date. Spikes in donations during catastrophe can’t be smoothed out to help during the smaller emergencies that don’t engender such public outpouring. There’s no way to save up people’s generosity, no way to carry the surplus forward.

So I keep giving – catastrophe or no. And one day, I’ll get to make a joke about Vulcans while wearing that T-shirt.

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