The most essential gift of all

Published 7:55 pm Friday, October 8, 2010

Let me preface this column by saying that my mother is a nurse. From an early age, I knew more about illness and medicine than any child really wants to know. My mother was also very fond of describing the wounds she treated in her home-health patients that day while the rest of us were attempting to eat dinner. Needless to say, I now have a very strong stomach.

Despite her stories about the glamorous life of a nurse, I did not grow up to be one. My mother did manage to impart the knowledge that providing medical care takes a lot — of time, of effort, of the basic things necessary for human life, such as blood.

So it was with great excitement my senior year of high school that I signed up to give blood for the very first time. I saw it not only as a duty, but also a chance to care for another human being the way my mother still does every day.

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I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t at least a little nervous. You’re giving away a bit of your life; it’s OK to be scared. The mistake most people make is letting the fear get to them to the point that they don’t even bother giving in the first place.

After getting my finger poked to check my blood’s iron level, I sat in a nice lounge chair and was told to relax — which really isn’t something you can do the first time you give blood, but at least the chair was comfortable. As I was staring off into space I felt a pinch in my arm and the nurse announced that she was all done. She handed me a can of ginger ale and I watched, fascinated, as the blood drained into a bag that would soon be used to save another’s life. Eventually, the bag had filled. On my way out, another volunteer handed me a second can of a ginger ale and a bag of chocolate chip cookies.

Needless to say, the promise of free snacks has been enough to keep me coming back every 56 days to give my gift of life and receive my free treat — that and the fact that, while we can’t all be nurses or doctors or caretakers, we can all do our small part to help others.

It is with this in mind that I encourage you to sign up for the next blood drive in your area. Towne Bank Harbour View, for example, will be sponsoring a blood drive on Friday, Oct. 15 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 6001 Harbour View Blvd. But there are many other opportunities to give blood. Just call the Suffolk Chapter of the American Red Cross at 757-539-6645 for more blood drives.

You may lose a little blood in the process, but you’ll gain more than you lose. At the very least, you’ll get that free ginger ale and maybe even some cookies.