Friday, April 17, 2009

"Let Me Transfer You to the Poor Sap Who's Waiting on Your Platelets"

When I was in high school, the National Honor Society sponsored an annual blood drive. One year, my friend and I were responsible for signing up donors in the cafeteria during lunch. We were told to thank people who signed up by informing them that their donation could save six or seven lives. But instead of using the information to encourage people who signed up, my friend used it against those who didn't: "Well, you just killed six or seven people." I thought it was funny at the time. (I still do.)

I recalled the 1995 Perry Meridian High School blood drive this week when I called the Nashville Area Red Cross to cancel an appointment I'd made to donate platelets. As I may have mentioned before, the local Red Cross has a vampiric thirst for my blood and all its component parts. They often call me about donating plasma and platelets, and they have never taken "no" for an answer.

Several weeks ago, I made an appointment to donate platelets this week (because "I'll give you a call when I have a better sense of my schedule" was not an acceptable response), not knowing at the time that I would have no hope of getting away from work long enough to be hooked up to an apheresis machine for two hours (after a half hour of finger pricks, answering questions, and that sort of thing).

So Wednesday I called to cancel/postpone my appointment. (I say "cancel/postpone" because I had every intention of giving platelets at some point in the not-so-distant future, but I wasn't prepared to say exactly when I'd be available.) The person I spoke with at the Red Cross said, "That's OK, thanks for calling" before informing me that there was a particular person anxiously awaiting my particular platelets. Apparently, I am one of few platelet donors in the Nashville area with a B-positive blood type. ("B+: It's my blood type and my college grade point average.") Platelet recipients tend to have leukemia and other very serious illnesses, so by not donating I would be putting someone's life at risk. I would have to choose between my job and not killing someone. Fantastic.

On one hand, it's good to know that my donations aren't just wasting away in a refrigerated storage unit. On the other hand, I can't imagine that official Red Cross policy provides for telling donors that, by opting out of a donation, they are putting someone's life at risk.

Maybe it doesn't matter. I said I'd donate platelets, so I should donate platelets, even if I feel like I have a reasonable excuse not to. Donating blood is one of the few ways in which I actually follow Jesus' example of service and sacrifice. (Otherwise I'm a pretty lousy Christian.) In Luke 9:57-62, Jesus asks some guy to follow him. The unnamed guy responds, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father," to which Jesus answers, "Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God." Dad's funeral is a much better excuse for not following Jesus than having to make up a few hours of work, and it still didn't fly with the man from Galilee.

So thanks to Jesus (who always finds ways to make my life more complicated) and to the persistent folks at the Red Cross (who called me again yesterday morning begging me to reschedule), I will be donating platelets next Wednesday and will be taking vacation time to do so. Platelet extraction requires the donor to sit still for two hours with a needle in each arm. Fortunately, donors can watch movies while they give, so I'll probably rent something Tuesday night. Let me know if you have any suggestions.

Note: In the picture I'm giving plasma, not platelets.

Related: "A New Picture of Myself, and What Happened to the Free T-Shirts?"


Anonymous Anonymous said...


So the Red Cross is now matching specific donors to specific recipients?

If the recipient doesn't think he's getting everything he wants, can he get a subpoena ordering the RC to tell him who the donor is, and then sue?

There's a LOT of abuse potential here.

1:02 PM  
Anonymous Jason Hunt said...

I'm B positive, as well....too bad I can't give blood because I'm gay.

8:18 AM  
Blogger Phil Maher said...

@ Jason...yeah the whole gay ban on blood donation is just plain makes no sense since all the blood is tested anyway...

FYI: great directory of blood donation centers here:

3:41 PM  

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