By Susan Christensen
Quincy Community Blood Drive Coordinator
You’re probably familiar with the tale of the starfish by Loren Eiseley. A little girl is walking on a beach where thousands of starfish have been washed up during a raging storm. She begins picking them up, one at a time, and throws them back into the ocean.
People watching laugh at her, and one man asks her why she’s doing it — he says, “You can’t save all these starfish. You can’t begin to make a difference.” The girl looks him in the eye, picks up a starfish and hurls it back into the ocean. She turns to the man and says, “Well, I made a difference for that one.”
Why am I relating this oft-repeated story? Because it beautifully sums up what I’ve learned in seven years of serving as Vitalant’s community blood drive coordinator in Quincy — that blood donors make a difference.
From where I stand, the people I greet at every blood drive are the epitome of that little girl’s desire to help, regardless the odds. Of course, blood donors know their donation won’t save everyone; they donate because they know it will make a difference to some-one.
An example is Ojas. Our first “starfish” was diagnosed with Juvenile Acute Leukemia when only three years old. At five, he received a bone marrow transplant, but not long ago he relapsed. He’ll receive another bone marrow transplant this month, but since relapsing, he’s needed multiple transfusions. His parents want you to know how grateful they are for the donors who have helped their son stay alive. Blood donors made a difference for Ojas.
Alek is a 17-year old high school student who has Aplastic Anemia. Like Ojas, he had to have a bone marrow transplant and received it last July. He’s needed multiple transfusions before, during, and after his transplant. Alek is looking forward to regaining his energy, still low after the transplant, but he has high hopes for an active, healthy future. Did blood donors make a difference to Alek? Absolutely.
One last starfish story. Janelle La Chaux is a 41-year old artist who uses her art to share her journey with Sickle Cell Anemia. Diagnosed as an infant, Janelle has dealt with Sickle Cell her entire life. She needs monthly transfusions and endures excruciating pain due to her blood disease.
Here’s her message for all of you who have taken the time to donate blood: “I want to say to them that their selfless act of donating is much appreciated. Today I hear about all the older people who have passed away from COVID-19, and sometimes I wonder if they were part of the blood donor community, and if they were, will others step up to take their place.”
Janelle adds, “It is my hope that by sharing my story and my art, people realize they are needed to donate blood—to take action, to not wait and to make a difference today.”
Another starfish saved because more than a few “someones” took an hour out of their day to donate blood. Without a doubt, they made a difference to these three recipients.
Donors at our local drives represent every demographic you can imagine. Some are young, students maybe, or just beginning their careers. Some are in their middle years, working folks who donate blood on their lunch hour or sign up to come in after work, no matter how hard their day might have been. Some are retired, so they can be flexible about when they schedule their appointment, but schedule they do.
Men, women, young, old, working people, retired people—here’s what they all have in common. They could all be doing something else during that hour when they instead come in to donate a pint of blood. And they donate to total strangers, someone, somewhere who they will likely never meet. Someone who’s been in an accident. Someone with cancer whose treatment leaves them needing blood. A premature baby, perhaps, or someone with a disease who needs blood transfusions to stay alive.
Thank you to our “regulars,” the donors who show up without fail to every blood drive—and we hold four a year! I want you to know how much easier my job as a coordinator is when I phone you and hear, “Hi, Susan. I was expecting your call. What time do you want me there?”
The other folks who make a difference are our blood drive sponsors. These groups make the reminder calls the night before and work the check-in desk on the day of the drive, greeting donors and guiding them through the process if they’re first-time donors.
We’ve had many groups sponsor community drives, from civic groups like Rotary and the Soroptimists, to churches, the PDH Volunteers, businesses, charitable foundations, the local Republicans AND the local Democrats (blood drives are non-partisan!). We even had one of our county offices sponsor a drive. If your group is interested in sponsoring a future drive, just give me a call (283-2424).
Why this message now? Well, our first community blood drive of 2021 is next week, Tuesday, March 2, from noon to 6 p.m., and Wednesday, March 3, from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Our sponsor is the League of Women Voters, who I assure you have plenty of experience getting people to turn out!
If you’re already signed up, see you then. If not, how about giving me a call and making an appointment? I’ll get you signed up in a heartbeat.
When it comes to our local blood drives, there are too many people to thank individually. Donors and volunteers, you know who you are. And never forget this: “You made a difference to that one.”