I was reading this post by the redoubtable Ugich Konitari, about her experiences with blood donation and blood banking, and my own experiences of blood donation came whooshing out of my memory bank!
The first time ever was when I was a few months short of eighteen, the official age when you can donate blood.
My mother had been hospitalized and needed several units of blood. My father and my sister were the first to donate. One cousin came forth. His older brother didn't come, allegedly because his wife said "What will happen to our daughter if anything happens to you when you give blood?"
Given that more blood was needed and I was a willing volunteer, my blood group was tested, haemoglobin levels were fine, and I went through my first experience of giving blood. I do remember feeling a little light headed when I sat up, after it was over, but once I'd consumed the carton of juice and biscuits that were given to me, I felt fine and that was that!
After that there was no stopping me. Any blood donation camp in college would find me in the forefront, and it was nothing out of the usual for me to donate a unit of blood every few months.
After completing my Master's degree, I went to work as a lecturer in a college in a small town in Uttar Pradesh. Among my colleagues was a physiology teacher, married to a doctor. It was a women's college, with perhaps a dozen or so lecturers. When a blood donation camp was organized in the college, we needed at least one staff member to volunteer, in order to encourage our students as well as reassure them that it was perfectly safe to donate blood. Of this dozen odd women, some were too old, some were underweight, and a few were anaemic. The physiology teacher and I were both fit to volunteer, but the lady refused to do so, because she had children!!!!!!!! I was appalled- on what basis was she teaching physiology to her students if she had no fundamental knowledge of the physiology of blood, and how soon it regenerates. That she was married to a practising physician made it even more annoying. We had a successful drive, nonetheless!
Marriage and childbirth happened. A debilitating illness also occurred, in the course of which I was hospitalized and also received two units of blood.
As the years passed, the regularity of donating blood went down, but I was always willing to give blood to friends and family members who needed it. After an interval of a year or so since my last donation , a notice in our daily newspaper caught my eye, in which an army officer required my particular blood group for his ailing mother. It seemed to be calling out to me, so I went down to the army hospital and met the officer, and he escorted me to the blood bank. To my utter chagrin, the nurse couldn't find the vein in my arm. I was utterly disheartened, but agreed for the nurse to try a blind prick. You can imagine my joy when a vein was found and the blood emerged! The officer's mother recovered, and I received a very warm letter from him subsequently.
Many years later, a family member required large volumes of blood and plasma for a major surgery. I can never forget the kindness of those strangers who donated blood for this dear one.
Giving one unit of blood may not be a huge act for the donor, but for the recipient it is often the gift of Life itself.
There are, sadly, some religious communities which prohibit blood transfusions. A few months ago I heard of the highly preventable death of a person from such a religious background. I wish that their beliefs could be revised.
I'm now unable to donate blood because I'm on medication for various conditions and am probably too old as well. But if you are of the right age, are not anaemic or underweight, please do donate blood. You give just a little blood, and gain immeasurable good will. You are also given a card that entitles you to receive blood, if you need it for yourself or your family if you are a donor at a blood bank.
It is not difficult. Find out if you are fit enough to give blood. If you are, please do so. And do encourage the people you know to donate blood too. Think about it, talk about it, write about it. Each bit of information will help.
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You know I used to donate regularly. In started as a teenager in India and continued to until my last job. Then one time, I got so light headed that I had to be retained and monitored for hours at work and the memory of that has scared me from trying since. Every time the blood donation camp happens, I am tempted to go for it but the fear looms large. One of these days am just going to have to sign up and overcome the crazy butterflies...
Surprised that this topic had to come up in blogosphere.
I donated blood last week. I have been wanting to do it since a long time and it never happened for one reason or the other.
I was at the blood bank to pick up blood for a family member and decided to do the donation on a whim, it took me 4 days to recover (I got fever too). But the feeling of doing good was very strong and wouldn't mind doing it again :)
@sands: It's a pity that you had such a bad experience. have you asked your physician why this happened? If he gives you the go ahead, perhaps you can give it one more good attempt, bless you!
@AA_MOM: As I said, it was inspired by Ugich Konitari's post, which I have linked to. I'm surprised that you got a fever- perhaps that was a coincidence, since normally there are no adverse side effects of blood donation. I am glad that you followed your impulse to donate blood.
This is a really brave initiative to sustain donation campaigns. We should all do something for people that really need our help.
You go Dips. Have tried to donate but have always been turned away because of my weight. It's a big regret
@Raluk: Thank you. This is just one of the many ways in which people can help those in need.
@U: Some things are beyond one's control. There are many other wonderful things that you do:)
I was such a regular till I became pregnant and then just forgot about it. Thank you for reminding me about the pride and happiness at 'doing something'. I am going to sign up again.
@Cuckoo: That sounds great! Go for it:)
I was always gung-ho about donating but always got turned away for mysterious reasons. This should have warned me to test for what those reasons could be - instead it was only revealed when I got pregnant. So yeah, I am one of those perennially unsuccesful at donating blood :(
@The Bride: At least you tried, and you have valid medical reasons for not being able to donate. What astonishes me is the level of ignorance of those who should know better.
You are an absolute star, Dipali!
@mummyjaan: Thanks! (Please invite me to your private blog).
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