Midweek meditation: from fear to fulfillment
Thanks to the creativity and drive of UUCPA member Randy Helmonds, we will be hosting the Blood Donation Olympics on Saturday, October 26. I want to share my story with you.
In my family, donating blood has always been one of those no-brainer acts of mercy, like giving clothes we didn’t wear anymore to a younger relative or a clothes closet instead of throwing them in the trash. That pint of blood costs the donor nothing but the mildest of pain and a couple of hours (including the time spent getting to and from the center and eating the re-energizing snack of cookies and juice), whereas for the recipient, it makes the difference between death and life. My parents often helped run a blood drive at our synagogue, and my father donated regularly.
To this background was added a personal reason to give. In 1995, my dad was badly injured and barely survived. In the course of his recovery, he received about 40 units of blood. I was acutely aware that blood donors were why my dad was still in my life. Ever since then, I wanted to pay it forward. I hear from blood center staff that this kind of experience is a common motivation for donors.
There was just one problem: I was scared of needles. I managed vaccinations because they were necessary, and could endure blood tests for the same reason, but I felt pretty shaky about voluntarily offering up my arm. When I told a nurse about my ambivalence, she assured me that staff like her would really rather not deal with people who are queasy
about the whole thing. However, some years after that I brought the subject up with another nurse, our own Phyllis Cassel (blessed be her memory), who had worked in blood centers. She urged me to give it a try–the staff there were used to dealing with nervous patients, and maybe I’d find out it wasn’t so hard after all. Not long after that conversation, I embarked on the path to parenthood, and over the course of my pregnancy I had to have so many blood tests that I started taking them in stride. Hm, maybe she was right. If I could deal with that, why not try donating?
So once our child was born and I was eligible to give, I donated for the first time, and my hope was borne out: it wasn’t any tougher than a blood test. And I felt fantastic! I bounced out of there, absurdly pleased with the little bruise on my arm.
Ever since then, it has become a regular practice. It took some determination and patience on the staff’s part, as well as my own, to get into that rhythm, but now it’s something I do every eight weeks. It’s good for me, too; as a vegetarian with an uneven iron intake, being a blood donor has gotten me on a regular schedule of taking iron supplements so my hemoglobin count will be nice and high. It also encourages me to drink plenty of water. But the real benefits are spiritual. I feel connected to my community–the wonderful staff who help donors help others, and the unknown people who will benefit. A circle that opened up the day my dad was hurt is made complete. I’m amazed by the resilience of the body. All of this means that I leave the donation center one pint down, but filled up with a sense of well-being.
If you’ve been struggling the way I did for many years, this could be the chance for you to move from fear to fulfillment by becoming a donor right here in our Main Hall, in a community that supports you. Or if you can’t donate blood for whatever reason, please consider helping with a financial donation or by promoting the event to your friends.
And a final hint for those entering the Olympics: the more water you drink in the couple of days beforehand, the quicker donating will go.