It’s In You to Give

BloodI must say, this is one of the best taglines I’ve ever seen (and now that I work with a company that creates brands, I’ve seen my fair share). I spotted it last Saturday morning at Canadian Blood Services, where I donated blood.

I love giving blood. It’s something I look forward to doing every 56 days, which is as soon they let you give again. I love that they tell me that I “only” have to wait 56 days – which actually sounds much longer than eight weeks – and could they possibly sign me up for my next appointment while I’m here? Why not, I say, and just like that, I’m a regular donor.

How It Works

The whole process takes about an hour, start to finish. You can either make an appointment online or just drop in… the process is the same either way. You check in with reception and they thank you right away for coming in and saving a life, so already you feel like a hero and you haven’t even rolled up your sleeve. Then they give you a folder containing (a) a card with a number, (b) your donor card (which you get in the mail after the first time you give), (c) a brochure you need to read about donating, and (d) another little card that you will need later. The little-card-that-you-will-need-later and your donor card will fall out of the folder at the slightest tilt or provocation, but picking them up gives you something to do while you’re waiting for your number to be called. I’ve never waited more than five minutes, even on a weekend or holiday.

Once they call your number, you go through three stations for different levels of screening. At the first, they prick your finger to bring back memories of secret club initiations of your youth and make sure your iron level is high enough. Assuming you’ve been eating your spinach and liver, they print out a sheet of paper with your name on it, and nicely send you over to the second area with a few carrel desks, each with its own handy cup of pens. There, you fill in bubbles to answer 13 “yes or no” questions to reveal if you’ve visited or lived in certain countries over the past several years, or whether you work with monkeys. I’m always a little sad to answer no to that one.

With your filled-in bubbles in hand, you walk four steps to the next station. Here, your task is to find that little-card-that-you-need-now, which has by now fallen out at least three more times with all the moving around you’ve done. Once you’ve located said card, you slip it into the narrow crevice on top of a small lucite box. Apparently it’s all part of the secret initiation ritual, delivering coded messages and such.

Soon, a friendly health professional will pull your card out, point to you, and invite you into their private room. There, they will look at the veins on your arms, take your blood pressure and temperature, and ask you some “sensitive” questions about all the people you’ve had sex with. [Although a joke is begged for here, I am resisting, which is only to say this is serious stuff! But by all means, feel free to insert your own joke.]

Obviously, even if they’ve made it this far in the process, some folks may not be prepared to reveal said “sensitive” information. To make it less awkward than it might be for some people to back out, the friendly health professional will hand you a piece of paper with two UPI-coded stickers on it. One essentially stands for, “to the best of my knowledge my blood is safe,” and the other means, “no matter what I just told you, you might not want to use my blood.” They walk out of the room, let you put your secret sticker on your sheet (yes, it’s a secret sticker!), and then come back in.

No matter what sticker you picked, the next stop is the one we’ve all been waiting for — the actual taking of the blood. This is really the easy part, but I’ll spare you the details unless you really want to hear them (just ask me). Suffice it to say It takes about 10 minutes, and they’ve got a TV you can watch if you want. No biggie (especially if, like me, you have veins the size of the Amazon River).

Before you know it, the needle is out, the bandaid is on, and the teenage volunteers are bringing you coffee or water or juice and cookies. Five minutes later, you’re walking out the door with a sticker that says, “Be nice to me – I gave blood today,” and feeling like a million bucks.

Why I Give

While it is true that I am hugely motivated by the opportunity to eat Oreos, it’s not actually why I give blood. There are a couple of reasons I do. One is, straight up, I’m helping someone else, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s a pretty good reason in and of itself. Love thy neighbor and all that jazz. (I’m not usually a bible-quotin’ gal, but there are some basic Judeo-Christian values by which I abide, and this is one of ‘em.)

The side benefit of helping someone else is the other reason I give… because I love how good it makes me feel. I might have said it hurts so good, but (a) that would be cliché, (b) John “Cougar” Mellencamp might sue me, and (c) it actually doesn’t hurt. It’s a special kind of “ouch.”

If you have kids, consider this – I was first inspired to give blood as a result of my mother’s role modeling. Mom gave blood regularly when I was a kid, and now that she’s in her 70’s, she still does when she can. It seemed to me that giving blood was just one of those “normal” things grown ups did, like voting and volunteering and grocery shopping, so once I was old enough, around the time I started college, I began to give.

Both as an undergrad and in grad school, my campuses held regular blood drives, so it was easy as a student to drop in. In California, I visited mobile blood clinics whenever they came to my workplace, but since I’ve moved to Canada, it happens I’ve never worked anywhere that’s held a blood drive to my knowledge, so I’ve just started going to the clinic near my house.


I’m one of the lucky ones. Thankfully, my family and I are all relatively healthy and I haven’t been on the receiving end of a blood transfusion. It is with incredible grace that I live, and am glad that I am able to be of service to others in this small way. Because really, and here I’ll give you the cliché because it’s just true, there’s nothing more important than our health.

I do think it’s pretty awesome – this simple act connects me in a very real and direct way to a person I’ll probably never meet. For me, giving blood is about really – physically – connecting to something that’s bigger than me . It’s that “oneness of everything” thang. Plus you get Oreos. I dig it.

If you haven’t done it, give it a try. It actually IS in you to give!

In Canada:

In the U.S.:


One thought on “It’s In You to Give

  1. Lovely! Lovely! Just like you. It is just like you to do this and so you do. Why am I not surprised!

    Like you, Ken gives blood regularly and has been doing so since college days, I think.

    C u soon. HUGE HUGS, Sally

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