Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Take my blood, please

My dad worked in a hospital when I was growing up and he'd regularly come home with the "Be Nice to Me, I Gave Blood Today" sticker on his coat. I thought giving blood was the coolest thing and wanted to give at my high school blood drives, but I wasn't old enough. In the fall of my freshman year at U.C. Berkeley I was finally the right age, but the wrong weight. You can't give blood unless you weigh at least 110 pounds, but I decided that even if I was five pounds short, I was going to give anyway. I lied about my weight and was gratified to have my first pint of blood sucked out of me. Not long after, I began to feel quite unwell and thus did I learn to not give blood if you don't weigh enough.

Not long after, I put on the "freshman 10" (the ten pounds of weight most girls gained during our first year eating dorm food) and have been a proud blood donor ever since. I've certainly never again had trouble weighing enough. I love the "Be Nice to Me" sticker, I love the cookies and I love the feeling of helping others with such a simple action. Hospitals need blood every second of every day and it can only come from one place: us! It takes less than an hour and includes snacks, and there's nothing better than medically necessary cookie-eating! They're the only completely guilt-free Oreos I ever enjoy.

But sometimes I would get turned down because my iron level wasn't high enough. Actually, in the past few years the frequency with which I've been rejected for low iron has increased in spite of iron supplements, eating iron-rich foods and attempting to donate NOT when I have my period. The donor center assures me that my iron level isn't really "low" as in anemic. My iron level is perfectly fine for a healthy person, it's just that in order to give blood, your iron has to be a bit higher than normal, and that's the requirement my body just doesn't meet anymore. Sadly, this year I've been rejected every time I've tried to give. It's become increasingly disappointing and frustrating, especially since my diet is excellent, I take supplements and yes, I cook only with cast iron pans. I've even tried eating extra red meat in the days before attempting to give. With reluctance I'm realizing it's time to accept that I just can't give blood anymore.

I hate that I, who had such a great role model in my dad and have been a regular donor for years, am finally forced to stop. I just can't meet that iron level requirement. And then there are the millions of people who never even think about giving blood and when you do think about it, you don't actually do it. I would love it if someone who reads this goes and actually gives blood.

Think about it a little longer: don't you think it's important that hospitals stay supplied with enough blood? If a friend or family member were to ever wind up in the hospital needing blood and there weren't enough, wouldn't you give then? So why not give now? If I could influence just one person to start regularly giving a pint, I wouldn't feel so bad about not being able to do it myself.

If you're interested you can sign up with the Red Cross or in Chicago with LifeSource Blood Services. Think of me when you get to the Oreos!

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