Blood saves lives…

Red Cross Sweatshirt

I donated blood for the first time around 2004.  It didn’t go very well.  I didn’t want to donate out of my left arm since I’m left handed, but when I tried my right arm, we discovered that I have a spaghetti interchange of veins in my right arm.  So that first time, I got poked in both arms.

The benefit of that first time is that my new donor card told me that I had O Negative blood.  I didn’t really think about the blood type too much until about 5 years or 6 years ago when the school was hosting blood drives and motivating parents to donate by giving prizes to their kids.  I signed up and when I showed the Red Cross technicians my old donor card that showed my blood type, they talked me into trying the power red donation which is the equivalent of donating 2 units of blood.  I nearly passed out that time and was thoroughly embarrassed to be a grown man in what I thought was prime health having to be tipped back with my feet elevated as everyone in the room looked at my ghostly complexion.  The next time wasn’t much better.  I grew pretty frustrated when I saw an elderly lady come donate a pint in about 5 minutes, and get up and walk out as if nothing had happened to her.

However, several things had happened to establish my determination to figure out how to donate.  In December of 2007, my sister-in-law hemorrhaged badly during child birth and aside from the more than 30 units of blood given to her, she would have died.  I also learned the scarcity of O Negative blood.  According to the American Red Cross, only 7% percent of the population has O Negative blood.  The value of that type of blood is that it is universal, meaning that any blood type can have a transfusion with O Negative.  It is therefore the most frequently used kind of blood whenever someone’s blood type is not known, as in an accident, injury, or emergency surgery.  (The drawback of having O Negative blood is that I can only ever have O Negative given to me.)  As I thought on those two reasons, I felt obligated to figure out how to donate efficiently.  As in the case of my sister-in-law, my donation could save the life of another person.  I always receive an e-mail to let me know the locations where my donation was used – Peoria, St. Louis, Chicago, Virginia Beach, and others that I can’t remember.  One time it was Rush Hospital in Chicago and I wondered if it was given to the victim of an auto accident, or even more likely – a shooting victim.  But the most compelling reason that I’ve felt obligated to give is that God gave me this very unique kind of blood; it is a gift given to me to be a giver of life to others.

In order to be able to donate without passing out, I talked to our family doctor (who it turns out had been a Red Cross technician when in medical school).  She gave me several tips to help get through it: drink plenty of water, eat iron rich foods, drink a soda just before to get a sugar boost, ask to be reclined before the blood draw even begins, etc.  As I’ve implemented her suggestions, I’m able to not only donate a whole blood pint, but I can do the power red using the pheresis machine with relative ease.  My next pint will put me at 24 units (or 3 gallons).  I intend to keep doing it as long as my health permits.  The Red Cross calls me several times a year to make sure I’m donating as frequently as the guidelines permit.  They consider O Negative donors to be their “Trauma Team.”  We are given special rewards each year, such as the sweatshirt which I just received in the mail this week.  I feel especially blessed that God has permitted me to help others in such a unique way.

While I’m proud of the type of blood I have, I realize that I had absolutely nothing to do with the selection of it; it was God’s act in creating me.  One thing keeps coming to mind though, my blood type is valued for its universal ability to save lives.

As a Christian, and as a pastor whose job it is teach and illustrate truth, I can’t help but thinking of the blood of our precious Savior, Jesus Christ.  The Apostle John, stated that Christ “loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood.” (Revelation 1:5).  I’m teaching through the book of Hebrews in which the sacrifice of Christ is compared to the Old Testament sacrificial system; the Scripture clearly states that “without the shedding of blood, there is no remission.” (Hebrews 9:22)  “Remission” means “to forgive” or “to put away.”  Very basically, the shedding of the blood of Christ on the cross, accomplished the forgiveness and putting away of our sins.  It saved my life, spiritually and eternally.

My blood is valuable because it is unique and universally able to save the physical life of anyone on the earth.  The blood of Jesus Christ alone will spiritually and eternally save the life of any who come to Him in faith.  Think about it…