Friday, January 18, 2013

How to save a life

It's been nine and a half years since we moved behind the Redwood Curtain and in that time I hope I've saved several lives. I'm a writer, not a fireman or policeman or member of a search and rescue team, so how could I have saved several lives? I donate blood. Today I gave the pint that makes my sixth gallon of donations since moving here. That's 48 chances to give another person the gift of life -- the victim of an accident, a person facing surgery, someone with a blood disorder.

Most of us never get the chance to perform a heroic act and I don't consider donating blood an act of heroism, but it does give me the opportunity to change another persons life as profoundly as any act of heroism. My small gift of a pound of myself is a more direct gift to another human being than any donation to charity.

For anyone who has never donated before, the process is fairly simple. Count on it taking about an hour to and hour and a half. You fill out a survey of health questions and then have your temperature, pulse and blood pressure taken. A finger is stuck and a few drops of blood taken for a test of the iron level of your blood and, if everything checks out, you sit in a comfortable reclining chair while a technician finds the best vein, swabs your arm and sticks a needle in for the extraction. The needle stick is the only part of the process I don't care for, so I don't look. Then you just sit back and let the blood flow into a bag. I always bring a book to read while that's going on. Once you've donated, you stop in the snack room for something to drink and goodies. You're not supposed to do any strenuous exercise or heavy lifting for 24 hours, so you can go home and have a pass to be lazy for a day.

And then your blood goes to work helping one or more people. That's a good feeling.