On blood and altruism
Have you ever been plugging along in life, footloose and fancy free, embarking on adventures just because you can, then going home at night, wondering what it’s all about?
It was one of those evenings when I first decided to donate blood. I was living in Santa Barbara and happened to see a notice for a blood drive so I went in to donate.
Once you’re in the system, there’s no escape. They’ve got your number: all of them. Every time you donate, they update your vital information to keep tabs for the next time they want to suck your blood.
After I moved to Quincy, soon enough I found myself at the Church of Latter Day Saints, giving blood.
I go faithfully now, nearly every time the crew comes from Reno and sets up their portable blood bank in the church’s giant hall.
I missed one time because I went out of town for the holidays. The other time I missed was when I lost my wallet. I discovered it missing when I went to show my ID.
Heart pounding, beginning to sweat, I raced out of the church and frantically retraced my steps, all to no avail. What’s worse is that I had just withdrawn $200 for a trip I was about to take (rather ironic).
I didn’t have another picture ID on me, which made me ineligible to donate. Besides that, I was too despondent to give anything to anyone, let alone my very lifeblood to someone who could end up to be the person who found and stole my wallet!
So why do I donate blood? I want to help other people (but I don’t want to work too hard doing it).
I’ve been accused of being a vampire. But giving blood seems like the opposite of vampirism. How could donating blood be a bad thing? Does it make me appear morally superior? Do I walk around with a holier-than-thou attitude?
Somehow, being willing to let a phlebotomist stick a needle in your arm after answering numerous questions about your personal and sexual habits (e.g. “Have you had sex even once with a man who’s had sex with another man?”), qualifies as doing something good for others, at least in my book.
I’m willing to give my blood to someone in need but not my money, time or energy (except in very special cases).
Giving blood takes up to an hour at most — and only that long if you do a double on the apheresis machine, which takes your blood, separates the red blood cells, and returns everything else.
Last time I donated, that’s the way it went. I felt great afterwards. When you donate using the machine, you get saline too, which leaves you fully hydrated, ready to go.
Down in Santa Barbara I answered a plea to donate platelets, which takes about 90 minutes. I got to recline in a special, semi-private room that had TVs and VCRs for each victim, I mean donor.
There were a couple hundred movies to choose from or you could bring your own. Afterwards, you got pizza and other special food, like Fritos and M&Ms.
I could really fool myself into feeling altruistic when I donated platelets. Then I moved away, and that option was no longer available.
So now I’m on the three-to-four-times-a-year program. The problem with donating a double is that it takes longer for you to be eligible to donate again.
That means I lose out on good karma points, and have to do something else, like pick up trash, to get that warm fuzzy feeling.
I don’t think I’m naturally lazy, but it’s easier to lie there and let them suck my blood than to scour the roadside picking up trash.
Maybe donating blood makes me feel more like I’m part of humanity; that I’m contributing something worthwhile.
I don’t consider myself a vampire, or some kind of reverse vampire. (Although I will confess to being a big fan of Ann Rice who wrote “Interview with a Vampire.” Her vampire series makes “Twilight” look like tawdry teenage angst. Oh wait — that’s what it is!)
Anyway, it does make me feel good to know that I can help someone in need by giving something of myself.
So if you want to feel altruistic, or you just want to donate blood, keep your eyes open for the next blood drive, give the church a call or check out unitedbloodservices.org.