Ready or Not #49: Donate Blood and Plasma

A couple of years ago, I turned on the news and my heart sank. I was listening to a story about the tornado that ripped through Enterprise, Alabama, destroying the high school, the hospital, half the town and killing several people.

There had been 17 tornadoes the day before along “Tornado Alley”, but they hadn’t been as destructive to so many buildings and they hadn’t killed anybody, at least of which had been reported.

At times like these — and for the earthquake victims in Haiti — people want to help those who have lost everything, and many of them did lose everything –including their health, or in some cases, their loved ones. We can gather essential items like clothing and hygiene kits together to ship to them and, as the news has reported, the people who are receiving these generous donations are extremely appreciative. Many were left with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

I am so glad that we can help others in their time of need and know that if we are in a desperate situation that there are other generous souls that would be willing to help us. The nice thing about helping others is that we can do it anytime, not just when the news alerts us to a particular tragedy. As I have said in the past, a disaster doesn’t have to be big and involve the entire community; it can be smaller – only involving your immediate family.

If you want to be able to serve your friends, neighbors, community or even total strangers, there are several ways that you can help that won’t cost you a dime and you won’t have to send it anywhere, but you will be helping in a big way. Let’s start with the easiest way – giving blood.

You can donate blood every eight weeks. Contact the Red Cross at www.redcross.org and get more information about where to go and what to do. They will be very happy to help you get started. Your local hospital can also help you get involved and they have several programs of which you can donate different fluids (which are quickly replaced by your body).

Some larger employers even sponsor blood drives for their employees to participate in every eight weeks, on company time – Wow! If you do decide to donate blood then, I would suggest that you drink a lot of water to make sure that you are fully hydrated. (Remember – you want to store two gallons of water per person, per day for a two week period, but drink no less than 8 – 8oz. cups of water a day). This will help you not experience complications such as collapsed veins or getting light headed.

Another way to help is to donate plasma. You aren’t actually “donating” because you do get paid each time you go (which can be helpful if you are a starving student or are just lacking funds). You can go two times a week and it generally takes about 1 ½ to two hours from start to finish each time (which works out to be about $15.00 an hour).

You can use the time to read, study, or just relax and watch the video that they are showing. Again, make sure that you are fully hydrated when you go. If you do, the draw will go a lot faster and you won’t have complications. You will also want to make sure that you eat a low fat, high protein-based meal before you go. There are several plasma centers in our area.  Just go to google.com or bing.com to locate the one nearest you.

You can also sign up for the bone marrow/stem cell registry. Go to www.marrow.org to find out more about getting signed up. They have made it so easy for you to sign-up. If you are ever given the opportunity to help someone by donating bone marrow or stem cells, you will be fortunate indeed.

With the incredible advances that the medical community is making in curing cancer and other horrible diseases, the least we can do, as healthy individuals, is to give our replaceable resources that others need in order to continue living. I have done it twice and it was an incredible experience both times!

I know that some people won’t be able to donate blood, plasma, bone marrow or other bodily components because of poor health or other problems, but those of you who can, give it a try – it is so satisfying. What you are donating is life itself – something that only you can give. We need to continue giving clothes and food and the other necessities of life to those in need during a disaster, but we don’t need to wait for a disaster to be able help somebody in need. What a wonderful way to serve each other.

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