I took the leap into being a blood donor for the American Red Cross for various reasons. It is a decision that I am very proud of, and one that can never be taken away. December 23rd was a date that never meant anything to me, just "another" day on the calendar. But from this point forward, I will celebrate that day every year that passes. December 23rd, 2013, marks the day I pledged one gallon's worth of blood to those who need it. But with that said, it almost didn't happen.
I had been looking forward to this day for months, literally. It really was my personal Christmas, and a day that meant everything. My wife, Jerri, and our two young daughters loaded in the car and drove over to the main blood donor center in Hagerstown, Maryland. We arrived about 15 minutes early and I signed in and anxiously waited for 1:00 PM to arrive. It did...and passed. This was my third visit there, and just like the other two before, the "workers" in the back were late. Yes, I know things happen, but when you are the very first person on the list....
A very unfriendly male came out to get me so I could start the process. As he took my information, checked my pulse and blood pressure, I tried to make small talk...no can do. Sure, you have to be professional, but this guy was a straight up A-hole. He then pricked my finger and checked my iron level...12.3! As a vegetarian and long distance runner, iron has always been my arch enemy. Being that your iron level has to be 12.5 at minimum, he told me I could not donate. After going back and forth with him for a few minutes, and having no luck, he finally went out to have someone else retest me. Another awesome and personable male came in (sarcasm) and retested me. He barely squeezed any blood into the vile, more air than blood. Ugh!! 12.4!! Still not high enough. He shot me down and told me to come back in a few weeks. I was having none of it. I told him I would go home and get my iron level up and have it done later. He was adamant that I couldn't do it and told me to have a nice day. I didn't like this guy at all.
As luck would have it, our little town of Williamsport was having a blood drive at the American Legion. This is the cool part. I took 200 ENERGYbits and drank a bottle of water. We again packed the kids up for another go at it. I repeated the process and waited. But unlike the main center, everyone in Williamsport had a smile on their face and had a friendly attitude. My volunteer nurse pricked my finger, again with more air than blood, and it came up 12.1!! Now I was starting to worry. However, she was SUPER nice and had a male nurse retest me. I noticed that when he checked me, that he squeezed hard on my finger and filled it completely with blood. The result came back....wait for it....BAM!! 13.6!! He told that me if a little air bubble gets in during the testing, that it can throw the test off. That's what happened the previous three times, not enough blood and too much air. OR the ENERGYbits kicked in and elevated my iron level. Either way, my gallon was happening!
My nurse was the best! She even told Jerri and the girls to pull up a chair and sit right next to me. Emily was super happy about this! Less than ten minutes later, I was done. "Gallon Girl", as she was known, even showed Emily how to fill up the testing tubes. She even mentioned how impressed she was that Emily didn't get sick when watching. I couldn't believe the difference between the nurses at the Legion and the main center. It was like night and day. I have come to the realization that those who volunteer at blood drives do it because they actually love helping! I think this because the three times I have been to the main center, where the workers come down from Johnstown, PA, they have acted a certain way. Like they hate dealing with people. It really is a shame.
Back to "Gallon Girl" and those at the American Legion. I am so glad fate would put me there because they were all amazing! We even got to see Katharine, our elderly volunteer. We have seen her at a few locations over the past year. No matter what, she always takes the time to speak with the girls and make Emily smile. I swear from this point forward that I will only donate at blood drives. No more going back to the main center in Hagerstown. They will not suck the fun out of donating for me. I would rather deal with a volunteer who loves the American Red Cross opposed to a full time worker who goes about it as "just a job."
My next scheduled donation is in February and I am happily awaiting to start on gallon two. I love donating and feel honored after finishing. Knowing that I am helping save lives means more to me than words can express. I never forget my loved ones that have passed, and the donations that kept them going. I think about Brian, my friend that would have passed away had it not been for the many donations that were given to him during surgery after surgery. And to the many faceless victims that have been dealt a bad blow by life. And now I will think of my town of Williamsport, the American Legion...I couldn't be happier to know that is where my gallon was given. Thank You!!