My husband, Bruce, has been donating blood for over 10 years. I figured he was representing our family and we were doing our part. I thought they froze the blood and stockpiled it for future use. I thought surely they always have plenty of blood on hand. I was so wrong.
Blood donors make up a mere 5% of the 38% of Americans eligible to donate. I found that statistic rather shocking. Also, red blood cells are refrigerated and have a shelf life of only 45 days. (Your donated blood has been used or has expired 11 days before you are eligible to donate again in 56 days, which explains why it is necessary for the American Red Cross to call upon its donors so often.) Just a few are carrying the load for the many and the daily struggle to meet the demand of hospitals for blood is constant.
My First Experience
Newly informed, I set out last Saturday to donate blood. I was headed for the American Red Cross building in Tucson when I spotted a Red Cross mobile unit about a block away, next to Diamondback Police Supply. I decided to see if I could donate there, since it appeared a blood drive was underway.
I parked my car and walked over to the sign-in sheet where I was greeted by Barbara Belhumeur. I was given material to read, and since I had no appointment, I sat down to wait my turn. I soon noticed everyone seemed to know one another and there was a sense of something special happening in the air. Everyone was smiling, everyone was hugging, with special attention paid to Holly, who was stationed at the sign-in table, as well as to Barbara and a gentleman named Larry. I asked Barbara if this was a special event. It was.
Barbara and Larry Belhumeur lost their son, Holly’s husband, to a devastating illness recently and this was a memorial blood drive. Mark Belhumeur (known for remarking ‘you are a scholar and a gentleman’ when introduced to someone new) had recieved the gift of blood while battling his illness. Though he eventually succumbed, his family wished to give back and to help save the lives of others in his name. Mark had worked at Diamondback Police Supply, which is why the location was so appropriate. He was obviously much loved and is deeply missed by all who knew him. His family and friends did him proud that day.
As I waited my turn, I marveled at the resiliency of the human spirit and at the ability of this lovely family to turn tragedy into hope for others. My name was called and I entered the bus.
I was first seated in a private cubicle by a young, attractive phlebotomist named Alethea , who pricked my finger (felt like a sharp snap, not particularly painful) and took a speck of blood, which she tested for adequate iron. She also checked my blood pressure. I then answred a few questions regarding travel and personal associations, all of which is strictly confidential.
It was determined I was healthy and eligible to donate (I had eaten an iron-rich breakfast and drunk plenty of water, which also makes your veins more accessable) and I was instructed to recline comfortably on a padded bench seat. Alethea inserted the needle neatly and cleanly and approximately 10 minutes later I had given a unit of blood. John, another Red Cross professional, cleaned me up, bandaged me and, after making sure I was feeling OK, sent me to the front of the bus. I thought, ‘what a simple and easy way to impact the lives of others in a beneficial way’.
I made my way to the front of the bus where assorted snacks and beverages had been made available to replenish the energy of donors. While seated in this mini recovery area, I met a young mother named Shannon, who had donated at the same time. Shannon, in her motherly wisdom, had brought along her nine year old daughter, Olivia (darling with long golden hair), so that she could observe and learn. Also on hand was Elisa Rister, Mrs. Arizona 2009, who is friend to Holly Belhumeur. She is as beautful and as down to earth as they come and provided wonderful support to the cause.
After chatting a while, I was free to go. I asked everyone’s permission to mention them in this article. They all kindly agreed. We hugged and I walked away feeling like I had done something meaningful that morning. I know I will become a regular, lifelong donor thanks to the generosity of spirit I experienced with the Belhumeur family and the kind, professional attention I received from the American Red Cross professionals, Alethea and John. My heartfelt thanks to all of you for making my first blood donation so memorable!
About the American Red Cross