Published on April 24, 2017

100 blood donations and I’m not done yet

100 blood donations and I’m not done yet

Is it a good thing to donate blood?

O-positively.

Sorry, couldn’t resist a little blood drive humor. I just got back from making my 100th blood donation, so blood drives are on my mind.

I remember the first time I donated blood. I was a junior at Barnstable High School and a Red Cross blood mobile came to the school. I was 16 – still a few too months too young for a driver’s license and a few years too young to buy a beer – but this was a grown-up thing I could do. It seemed like a good way to help the community, and it was a chance to skip a class without getting in trouble. A good deal, all in all.

But why have I given 99 more times since then? I’d have to give credit to my parents. My mother was a nurse at Cape Cod Hospital, among other places. My stepmother was a school teacher for 41 years. My father was an accountant. That might not seem to be a job focused on giving back to the community, but for him, the job was only partly about numbers. The real goal was helping his clients get closer to financial security.

They all taught me the importance of giving back. Donating blood is an easy way to do that.

I’ve learned a few things along the way. When the nurse says to avoid strenuous activities for 24 hours after a blood donation, pay attention. Back in college, I was a marathon runner. After giving blood one evening, I decided to jog across campus to catch up with some friends who were going to a hockey game. Bad idea. By the time I got to the rink, my legs were wobbly.

I’ve learned that whether you donate in a hotel’s banquet room, at the scenic Bass River Rod & Gun Club in Yarmouthport or on Cape Cod Healthcare’s roaming blood mobile, the nurses and phlebotomists are always kind and caring.

And I’ve learned that it really doesn’t hurt. There’s a little pinch when the needle goes in and then I can spend a few minutes relaxing or reading a magazine while the blood is withdrawn. Sometimes it’s the most peaceful part of my day.

Many of the blood drives feature some kind of gift for the donors. Over the last few years, I’ve received gift cards and gift certificates for Dunkin’ Donuts, Friendly’s Wendy’s, Regal Cinemas and Entertainment Cinemas, along with items with the Cape Cod Healthcare logo (a T-shirt, a water bottle and a beach towel).

But what it’s really all about is the gift of life. My father underwent heart surgery at Cape Cod Hospital. Maybe the operation included a transfusion of my blood. My friend, Terry’s, father, a major supporter of Cape Cod Healthcare’s blood mobile, recently needed blood during a medical crisis. Was it my blood? Maybe.

But most of the people I’ve helped are strangers. If I walk through a supermarket, I might wonder, did my blood donation help that person over there? Or that person’s mother? Or that person’s child?

There’s no way to know, but I do know this: I’m going to keep on giving.

The guidelines say you have to wait eight weeks between donations, so maybe in 18 or 20 years I’ll be celebrating my 200th donation.

Blood is needed year-round, but especially around the holidays and when winter arrives. For information about upcoming blood drives, visit Cape Cod Healthcare’s Blood Center.