Last Wednesday was eight weeks since the last time I donated  blood with United Blood Services.  Days before, they called me to tell me I was due to give blood again. I had mistakenly put in my Day Planner that I was eligible to donate on June 9.   I  went back and counted up weeks, and, sure enough, June 2 was  the eight-week point.

On Tuesday and Wednesday I drank lots and lots of water so as to become well-hydrated. That would better enable the blood to flow from my veins.  I don’t enjoy the extra bathroom visits that always come on blood donation day from consuming all that water.  I showed up at 2:15 p.m. at  UBS’s Chandler donation site. There was only one other donor there. I quickly went through the question session and took my seat to  begin the donor process.  I told all the technicians around me that, in  recent years, I have been famously troublesome because the  vein in the bend of my right arm is more and more difficult to find and tap into.  I used to do “pheresis” where the blood is filtered, the white blood cells and other components removed and the rest sent back into me.  But my veins cannot handle that anymore.  Earlier in my donation years, I also went through platelets donations, which involved needles simultaneously in both arms.

The fact that I have given 147 pints of blood over the years — almost all from that spot — has left behind a tough layer of  scar tissue.  Technicians,  already burdened to find  the vein, must strive to penetrate the scar area without getting a piece of my tough hide clogging the  blood draw needle.   And as bad luck would have it, Nikki, got the needle plugged.  No matter how much she tried to jigger it in my arm to my discomfort and then call in Brian, the  supervisor, who used his best tricks, including a tourniquet, the blood would not flow.  They had to give up.

When the needle was pulled out, it, indeed, was blocked by scar tissue.  I was told to come back after three days.   It is now six days and I haven’t returned, but I will in the next few days — recharged with water. My arm is healed and I will make sure they watch out for the scar tissue, but it will be a challenge.

I first tried to give blood more 40 years ago while in college, but I nearly passed out as I got close to donating. The mere thought of being drained of blood was too much.  But while in the U.S. Army, I tried it again and wasn’t fazed.  It began a habit that led to four gallons of blood donated while I live in Iowa and 13+ since moving to Arizona in 1984. For 15 years, I coordinated four-times-a-year blood drives at my church.  I was responsible to signing up donors.  In my early years, I could be sure of at least 30 donors, but an aging congregation and some reliable donors moving away depleted the ranks.  When we could not guarantee United Blood Services at least 15 units for their trouble, they said they  would not continue to come.

On July 4, my longtime church friend, W.R. “Junior” Meier, and I will do a church “Minute for Mission,” a brief talk on why giving blood is a ministry to others. Junior has given 23 gallons and 2 pints, or 186 total pints of blood.  With my 147, we have combined to donate just over 41.5 gallons.   I am thinking about dramatizing it by placing eight plastic 5-gallon jugs on the church’s chancel.

Giving blood has been called “the gift of life.” It’s said that for every donation of a pint, three people benefit. It is relatively painless. The United Blood Services staff becomes friends and great conversationalists through the process and it is serving our human family that brings health and recovery in times of surgery and trauma.

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