My reasons for donating blood have evolved over time.
Why I Donated Blood in the Beginning
I began donating blood when I turned 17 because I wanted to know my blood type. I find it weird that it isn’t part of your medical chart unless you need to receive blood. To me, it seems like that should be part of your initial pediatric workup. I remember learning about all the possible blood types based on genetics and wanted to know mine. It turns out I’m AB+, aka the universal recipient and second rarest blood type (AB- is the rarest).
Between Catholic school and family, my understanding was part of being a good citizen involved two basic requirements: voting/participating in democracy and either military or community service. Since my interest in military service was zero, I chose community service through volunteering and blood donations.
In my twenties, I admittedly didn’t donate as consistently as I should have. I usually participated when a blood drive popped up at work or in the neighborhood but didn’t seek it out on my own. I did try to donate at San Diego Comicon when I could since they gave you fun goodies as a thank you. One of my favorite t-shirts came from a blood drive for UCLA/USC, which I wore until the shirt fell apart.
Donating More Than Blood
When you regularly donate to the same organization, they will see if you are willing to upgrade to help out more. Since I was AB+, they asked if I would donate plasma (only AB types can donate). Plasma donation is a bit more elaborate and takes slightly more time than giving blood. It needs to be handled at a facility rather than a bloodmobile. Unlike blood, it regenerates faster, so you can donate more frequently (every 28 days) than a regular blood donation (every 56 days).
Next, they noticed that I had a high platelet count, and by high, I mean I can donate 3x as much without it affecting me. Much like plasma, the process involves a machine and a significant amount of time. Platelets regenerate even faster, so you can donate every seven days. I aimed for once a month but averaged out to once every two months. With the pandemic, I only donated platelets once in 2020.
Since I could make a triple donation, the time was also tripled. From start to finish, the process takes me about three hours total. Thankfully, they provide a tablet and access to Netflix. A moment of silence for those poor Netflix algorithms trying to predict recommendations when it is a new person every time.
Donating For Research
While the Red Cross actively aids communities with necessary donations, Bloodworks Northwest is pro-active with its research institution. The research division collects samples which benefit multiple forms of research, including cancer research and ways to keep blood products longer to avoid shortages due to disasters.
At the beginning of 2021, Bloodworks Northwest contacted me to gauge my interest in assisting the research part of the organization. I went through a screening process that took a few weeks to see if I qualified, which I did. They needed me to donate white blood cells, which take about four to five hours. They don’t process donations on weekends, so I would need to take off work, but they do compensate you financially (breaks down to about $75/hour).
I have completed this type of donation twice so far this year. The first time at the three-hour mark, my legs were like, “so usually we get up now,” and then proceeded to fidget. The next time, they had adapted to the new time. Between those two visits, I watched the entire first season of Emily in Paris on Netflix and Godzilla versus Kong on HBOMax.
Many people have had concerns about my donating in this way. They all ask what if they use my genetic material in a nefarious way. My response is if the worst-case scenario is a clone army of myself and the best-case scenario is the chance this leads to curing cancer, then totally worth it. Also, a clone army would be very organized, and all sign the petition to do more Firefly movies, so not sure what the downside is here.
If the nobility of community service isn’t much of a motivator, in 2016, I wrote a post about all the selfish reasons to donate: What You Get When You Give Blood.
If you wonder what blood donation has to do with my health quest, the next post will explain what I did with my blood money. Yes, that is what I call it. The term is both accurate and hilarious to me to refer to it as such.
Did you miss any of the previous posts in the My Health Quest series? [This series discusses intentional weight loss struggles and may be difficult for anyone with an eating disorder]