Seven unknown heroes
Thursday February 12th 2009, 2:41 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare

I can never know who they might be out there. The people who took the time out of their lives to drive to the Red Cross station, perhaps the one down the street from Stanford Hospital, or who maybe gave at a blood drive at the office.  Or wherever.  But there are seven people out there who gave of themselves and their time and let someone stick a needle in them simply to help out some stranger in the world whom they could never know just because it felt like the right thing to do and, while not all are eligible, they were and this was something they could do.

And I am alive writing these words because they donated their blood.  I not only had that surgery, I’d lost half my blood volume to my bleeding colon beforehand.

One relative of mine told me she’d been interested in donating but had always figured that as an AB+, the universal recipient, hers wasn’t really of much value.

While I was in pre-op, part of the preparation for surgery was my being infused with a large bag of plasma.  I rather freaked when I saw the bag typed as AB+; I’m A+, and promptly informed the nurse of that, quite worried.  She reassured me that with plasma products anything I might react to had been removed and that that bag was perfectly fine for me to use.

I know there is controversy over some of the Red Cross rules.  I know not all can donate. But to those who can, and who do, please know I can never tell you how grateful I am except by trying to put more good out into the world the ways that I can, too, as a thank you. I will try my best.

33 Comments so far
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Hey, Allison — my East Coast blood will not have made it over to you there in California, but that’s why we do it. Because we can. Glad it was there when you needed it. (And even for the universal recipient, the closer the match, the better.)

Comment by Elizabeth D 02.12.09 @ 3:15 pm

Alison, I’ve been away for a few days and are glad that you are doing well! When I’ve given blood, I’ve never spent much time thinking about the recipient. Thanks for opening my eyes! (I’m usually frustrated by my iron levels!)

Comment by Luanne 02.12.09 @ 3:30 pm

Donating a unit of blood often helps more than one person, unless they are in need of whole blood. I’m happy that the blood supplies were sufficient to get you on the way to recovery. I’ll have to wait for several more years until they’ll think I’m OK to give again…just one of the small joys of having had surgery.

Glad you are on the mend, for real! Stretch out that stomach, get that peristalsis going, and praise God that we have learned how to safely give the blood of life to one another!

Love ya!

Comment by Karen 02.12.09 @ 3:42 pm

I can’t donate, and it bothers me!! I’m glad so many of those who can, do. (Once you’ve had even a suspicion of clotting issues, they don’t want your blood. And now I’m nursing. And, erm, usually I don’t, ahem, weigh enough.)

I don’t know if this is a nationwide ad campaign, but here the Red Cross has local recipients of blood donations in commercials, talking about the heroes who saved their lives. They’re very powerful and moving spots.

Comment by amy 02.12.09 @ 4:12 pm

Half your blood volume that just blew me away you have been so couragious through all you have been through and Iam so glad you are here.Iam A+ and if there is a way I can donate blood that could be put away for you please let me know as I would do it gladly:)((((Hugs))))Darcy

Comment by Darcy 02.12.09 @ 4:16 pm

I am glad that there were donors there for you when they were needed. I also wish that the Red Cross would relax some of their seriously antiquated rules, as the reasons that I’m not allowed to give blood are completely invalid, and actually make me extremely angry if I think about them too long.

Comment by Kristine 02.12.09 @ 4:49 pm

The Red Cross is not in the blood business in Louisiana, but I, too, am grateful for the six donors who gave one of the units I received. (Well, I’m not super grateful about the sixth unit, which wasn’t perfectly cross-matched, and left me with a month of horrendous hives!) I suspect I had used up all their perfect match, and the sixth was better than none.

Comment by Barbara-Kay 02.12.09 @ 4:58 pm

The blood donation program is a good one, and very needed. I am not able to do this so I do other things. I am so glad this was available for you.

Comment by Sherry in Idaho 02.12.09 @ 5:13 pm

Lately they won’t take my blood either, because my iron is just slightly below their cut-off (completely normal for my age and gender, but not high enough for them.) Because when you need blood, even chocolate milk or green baby alpaca aren’t good enough. I’m glad they had the blood you needed.

Comment by LauraN 02.12.09 @ 5:18 pm

I used to give every 8 weeks, regularly. I have O+ blood, and I never minded… my blood also flows fast, I’m healthy and not anemic, and I really liked the volunteers at my local Red Cross office! Sadly, a few years ago, the RC changed the rules, and I am no longer allowed to give blood. I lived in England from 1983 to 1987, the “mad cow disease” years, and that now excludes me from the pool. Nevertheless, I praise anyone who does give. It’s so little, and means so much — as you well know, now, Alison!

So glad you’re posting again. What a wonderful sign!

Still praying!

Comment by Pegi 02.12.09 @ 5:40 pm

I am not allowed to donate because I have a bleeding disorder but I am grateful to the folks who donated the blood that became fresh frozen plasma so that I could safely give birth to my daughter.

Comment by Eileen 02.12.09 @ 5:48 pm

I’m so happy that you are feeling well enough to blog on pseudo-regular basis. 🙂
Sadly, the meds I use for my Chron’s exclude me for being a blood donor (and a bone marrow donor); I support your efforts to get the word out!!

Comment by Kelli 02.12.09 @ 6:33 pm

giving such a gift of life is so valuable.

Comment by marti 02.12.09 @ 6:47 pm

I’m 0 neg. …

I needed two units when I had my emergency hysterectomy at the time and I eternally grateful the blood was there.

Half your blood. Well at least I wasn’t worried for nothin’. 🙂

Comment by karin 02.12.09 @ 8:10 pm

Hubby donates every time there is a blood drive – and has done a process a few times that I think is for the blood plasma thing – it is an interesting process from what he says – I guess the blood goes out and fluids go in and it takes longer to do it so they don’t do it every time they have a drive but when they do it they call ahead to ask if he is willing to do that and he does.

Comment by rho 02.12.09 @ 8:30 pm

I’ll chime in with my thanks to donors. When my daughter was born she need 2 rounds of transfusions and we were not able to arrange a donation from a relative for her first transfusion.

What many people may not know is that premature babies, newborns, and others with specific medical conditions can only receive blood from those donor who are CMV negative. Once exposed to the virus, your blood donation cannot be used by this vulnerable sub-set of recipients.

Therefore I will give an extra special thanks to those of you who are designated as CMV negative. Your blood is so very precious and lifesaving. My daughter wouldn’t he here without your special gift. God Bless You.

Comment by Diane in Northern CA 02.12.09 @ 8:51 pm

I’m an O negative and have been a regular donor until a few years ago. I’ve also done pheresis, particularly when they called because I was a good match for someone. I don’t do that any more — had an infection and a clot after one of those, but I occasionally do a regular donation. I’m CMV positive, so, Diane, I couldn’t be a baby donor, but my DH is O positive and CMV negative and they do call him for baby blood. I have always felt this is something more significant than $$$ could ever be. I’m heading for surgery next week and did my own two donations ahead of time, just in case.

BTW, tofu increases the red cells — I made sure to have a nice Chinese dinner after each of my recent donations. Also had a nice half a steak at Outback (sharing with DH). My hemoglobin count was great. Who told me about tofu? The phlebotomist. It’s not all idle chatter!

Alison, how’s the green scarf coming along? How’s your energy level. I know your body is responding to all these good thoughts coming your way!

Comment by sjanova 02.12.09 @ 9:00 pm

Hey! I’m A+ as well! I doubt you got any of my blood though, since I donate up in Sonoma County. But you never know!!! Wouldn’t it be cool if you did?!


Comment by Romi 02.12.09 @ 9:57 pm

I too am grateful to those who donated. Wow, half your blood volume? Those Stanford doctors are incredible, and thank goodness for that.

Comment by AmyS 02.12.09 @ 11:40 pm

It’s been a couple years since I donated. The experience was very unpleasant, not like the blood draws I went to in the US (on college and grad school campuses.) The last draw involved a very long wait, it was too hot in the church hall, the nurses were surly, I passed out (blood pressure is on the low side and tends to drop)….but after your story I hope it helped someone and next drive, I’ll drag my B+ body back over there! Like Pegi I can’t donate in the US anymore (and had to remove my organ-donor permission from my Kansas driver’s license) but here in the UK, who else are they going to get, right?

Comment by LynnM 02.13.09 @ 1:06 am

Well it is great to hear that story. I give blood regularly and have started donating plasma. And it always seems like such an arbitrary thing, it doesn’t really seem real or have a human face. Well, now it does, thank you. I know my blood doesn’t go out of australia but it is good to hear. I too am glad others give blood and plasma so that others can be well, especially you!

Comment by Vicki 02.13.09 @ 1:43 am

Glad that the plasma was there for you. People who donate usually donate faithfully without any recognizition. Thank you for pointing that out.

Comment by Joansie 02.13.09 @ 6:05 am

Neither the girls nor I can give blood, our iron is too low (yes, we do all that stuff we are suppose to – eat veggies, take iron pills, watch Iron Chef on TV 🙂 but we try quite often. After the last time, we dragged our tails over to Neil’s house, very disappointed. AGAIN. He, without fanfare, went over to the phone, called up the Red Cross and made an appointment to give blood. He had in the past but not very regularly. While we looked at him in confusion he just stated “I see that’s its important to you. I’ll give blood when you can’t.” He still does, as soon as he can, each time.

You see, donated blood saved my dad’s life. And now yours.

Comment by afton 02.13.09 @ 6:35 am

I’ve been a donor for years and years, as you say, because I can. But recently I’ve been struggling with iron levels- they were never great, but I could usually scrape by. But for several months, they weren’t high enough to donate, and kept getting worse.

After testing some diet changes, I finally have had to mostly give up drinking tea- (the tannin inhibits iron absorption). And, good news, passed my iron this month with flying colors (presumably red colors). So now I’ll hopefully be back on a regular schedule – I really have no excuse, they have a drive every 2 weeks, about 3 blocks from my house. And after all, how often is it that a regular ordinary person has the opportunity to save a life?

So glad that CA donors were there for you, Alison!

Comment by RobinH 02.13.09 @ 8:03 am

We donate locally to Virginia Blood Services, so I know it wasn’t any of us, but I did give through the Red Cross for many years. (Until I learned it wasn’t supplying local hospitals…)

Comment by Channon 02.13.09 @ 8:36 am

For those that have problems with iron, try cooking with cast iron pots. The food will actually absorb iron from the pots and pans. 🙂

I couldn’t donate for a long time, because of my lupus. However, the RC/Bonfils (local blood collection company) changed their rules in the last fews years, and I can donate now. We have drives about every 2 months at work, so I go down and donate then.

Glad you’re feeling better Allison!!!! 🙂

Comment by Serena 02.13.09 @ 11:31 am

Alison, I only just found your blog today, and have been engrossed in reading it all afternoon. Due to diverticulitis, diagnosed when I was 30 but now I realize I’ve had it most of my life, I am sporting about half a colon. I don’t have nearly the struggles and challenges you have, yet I found myself relating to so much that you wrote. I’m hoping your on the mend now, and that the future will be bright. And I’m absolutely going to go find those knitting needles I can’t remember where I put! Thanks for the inspiration.

Comment by Candy 02.13.09 @ 12:50 pm

I hope your relative will come to realize that her blood is indeed valuable. I’m AB+ as well, and for years after my last child was born I was getting a personal phone call asking me to come and donate. It had something to do with my blood type and being a mother of more than 2 children under a certain age. I tested positive for some element that is especially valuable to those having transplants. I think the way it worked was that my blood could be given to anyone of any blood type who was having transplant surgery. It was considered quite rare.

Unfortunately I haven’t donated blood for a long time. Surly nurses turned it into a very unpleasant experience for me. Now, post surgery, I am likely no longer a candidate anyways.

Comment by Marlene 02.13.09 @ 2:20 pm

Very well said. Some people saved my life when I was in my 20’s and got toxic shock. What a wonderful way to save a life.

Comment by Cindi 02.13.09 @ 3:57 pm

Alison, may I have permission to forward this post to the blood drive coordinator at my workplace? I’m bettingthat if she shares it with our staff of 90, we’ll have several new blood donors next go-around.

Comment by ann 02.14.09 @ 5:06 am

Point taken; I’ve been slacking and avoiding the Red Cross vampires when they call. But if it helps people like you, I’d better get on over there!

Comment by suburbancorrespondent 02.14.09 @ 8:19 am

To Ann and anybody else so inclined: yes, thank you, please do.

Comment by AlisonH 02.14.09 @ 10:12 am

Thanks Alison for this post. I try to donate every time I’m eligible. I’ve actually cried when turned away (boarderline low hemoglobins for me) since I wasn’t able to help those times. It’s nice to know stories of those we help out. You are an inspiration!

Comment by Jessica 06.08.10 @ 8:40 pm

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