I wasn’t sure if the day would be a hit or a miss, but I prayed for a home run.
I left work a bit early, rushed to the bus and scored a navy, half-moon bruise near my right elbow while shoving the subway doors open to catch the train in time. I had prepared for this in every way possible, and I hoped it was enough. After a transfer to the 7 train, six stops to Citi Field, and five floors up on the elevator, I arrived at the 2019 Mets Blood Drive.
This was my sixth attempt at donating blood, and I had only been eligible twice. My very first donation was last April. Even though I came close to fainting that day (from not eating enough beforehand… rookie mistake), I wasn’t afraid to do it again. In fact, I felt unexpectedly passionate about the opportunity to save more lives. Because my hemoglobin levels tend to be slightly lower than the minimum level for donation, I have to amp up my diet with iron-rich foods about a week beforehand. Sometimes it’s enough, oftentimes it’s not. While most people are nervous about the needle, I dread those tiny, gray numbers on the hemoglobin test screen; when I’m turned away, I feel like the hopeful little kid who finds out they’re too short for the rollercoaster.
That being said, you can probably imagine my disappointment last night when I ended up being .1 under the required 12.5. The sweet nurse asked me if I wanted to try a finger prick on my opposite hand one more time.
“Sure, absolutely,” I replied. “Say a prayer that it’s higher.”
And it was! 13.3!!
I probably looked ridiculous doing a happy dance, clapping my hands excitedly like an eighth grade girl who made eye contact with her crush in homeroom, but I didn’t care. Even better: I discovered that my blood type, height and weight qualified my for an Alyx donation, which I had never done before. In a nutshell, the Alyx machine is used for collecting double the amount of red blood cells, which are later transfused to two different patients. Did I mention you get a smaller needle and better recovery because your platelets and plasma are returned back into your body?
The whole process could not have gone any smoother. I felt totally fine afterwards, sipping on cranberry juice and nibbling Lorna Doones, taking in the skyline view from the Foxwoods Club windows. I also received a voucher for two free Mets tickets, but the real reward was knowing I made a difference. As cheesy and cliché as that sounds, I truly mean it from the bottom of my heart. Having a healthy blood supply is something many of us take for granted. Trauma patients, natural disaster victims, newborns, the elderly and more are constantly in need of it. Cancer patients rely on it too, which makes me think of my cousin Olivia; she is a survivor of leukemia, a type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow. All types are always in need.
Especially in the new year, I hear people talking about how they want to volunteer more and/or make a difference in the community. But even if we have the best intentions at heart, how often are we actually carving out the time in our schedules to make it happen? I realize needles aren’t everyone’s cup of tea and physical requirements can get in the way, however— donating blood is a great service opportunity. Not only does one donation save up to three lives, it also burns an average of 650 calories and takes only about an hour, which goes by quickly! I can’t promise that you’ll get free tickets out of it, but you should be able to find a blood drive in your area that offers cool incentives (ask your company/employer too, you never know)!
Have you ever donated before? Tell me about your experience(s) in the comments below!