Thoughts by Richard Bleil
Her name is Kathy. Originally she was from New Jersey, but when I met her she was just that stunning black haired blue-eyed beauty working behind the counter at my dorm, and believe it or not, she even chatted with me from time to time. One day, she batted her eyes at me and said, “would you like to donate blood?”
Typical. Women are always out for blood.
And being a red-blooded filthy minded desperate American college boy, I drooled out “yeah, yeah, uh huh, yeah”. It was my first experience in getting poked. I began donating regularly and did so often enough that one hot day as I was out walking, I couldn’t help but wonder what this rash was on the inside of my arm until I realized they were all of the little scars from my donations. Eventually, I became an apheresis donor, where they centrifuge your blood onsite and either take the platelets or plasma. Mostly they took my platelets as I have a very rare blood type (AB-; I’ve been told not to bleed if I’m in an accident). I never got paid, but it took about ninety minutes back then, and I always got my own nurse to look out for me throughout the process, and yes, they were lovely, and I was still desperate.
When I grandfather passed away, I was surprised by how deeply it affected me. I hadn’t seen or spoken with him for many years, but I couldn’t stop thinking about him, so in an attempt to do something cathartic, I donated blood in his name. It was the first (and would be the last) time I had donated in New York City, and they did something I’d never seen before. They gave me a gift for the donation. I really didn’t want it, but as it turns out, it was a stuffed bulldog. The town where my grandfather lived had a high school (where my father went to school) and the mascot was, you guessed it, the bulldog. So, for many years, I had Harry (my grandfather’s name) the Bulldog with me.
I suppose that, in a way, donating blood is akin to organ donation. It differs in a couple of pretty major ways, though. First, blood actually regenerates. There are a couple of organs that do this, like skin, liver (if there is enough left and it’s not diseased), and bone marrow. But blood has to regenerate. It’s one of the ways that certain toxins are removed (like blood that has been deactivated due to carbon monoxide). It’s quick, it’s easy, and if my heart hadn’t been literally broken by my ex-wife, I would still be donating today. Okay, it really wasn’t her that caused my heart attack, but it did happen right after she asked me for a divorce, so it makes for an amusing story. Although, there was the stress, so maybe.
The other thing is that most organs are taken after you are no longer using them. Okay, you can donate a kidney while still alive (something I think I’ll look into, actually, now that I think about it). I don’t know how many people are declared organ donors on death, but it’s a great way to give and help other people with, literally, no inconvenience to you. Ignoring the comedic sketches (a la Monty Python) about organ collectors coming to your home before your demise, honestly, you’re not using them anymore. You can’t, because they don’t have blood flowing to or from them anymore. So, what do you need them for? But that child that was just in that horrific winter driving car crash does. Give her a chance for life.
A good liver can be diced up and served to several patients in need, usually with onions. Two kidneys can go to two people who need pies. My heart is not any good anymore after my triple bypass, but two lungs, two eyes, and men’s brains are worth a LOT of money on the open market. They’re sold as “new” since most men don’t actually use their brains.
Yes, I’m going to make a plea. If you are not an organ donor, please do consider becoming one. The next time you renew your driver’s license, just check the box “Yes, I would like to be an organ donor”. If you choose to donate a kidney early the process is rather more complicated, and I’m sure I’ll write a blog about it when I look into it. And certainly if they actually can and do use it.