Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Reflecting as I reach a milestone blood donation March 1, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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My blood donation card. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

MY AMERICAN RED CROSS CARD shows I started donating blood in 2009. Now I’ve reached the two-gallon donation mark. Note-worthy, I suppose.

But I hold regrets. Regrets that I didn’t start giving blood decades earlier and that I’ve given irregularly. I can’t offer an excuse that is acceptable. I was busy. Never considered donating, even though my husband had been giving for years. Who intentionally puts themselves through questioning and needle-poking? Not that I have an issue with questions, needles or blood.

Thankfully, 10 years ago, I decided to accompany Randy to a blood drive. And I discovered that donating blood is pretty darned easy. It just takes a bit of time. The process has become easier and quicker, though, with online screening (aka RapidPass) done at your convenience prior to your appointment. Once on-site, there’s additional health screening followed by the actual donation process. No big deal. I have no problem with needles or seeing blood or drinking lots of fluids (no alcohol, obviously) before or after.

I never really thought about what happens to my blood once it flows into a collection bag. Sure, I knew I was helping someone somewhere. But then awhile back, the Red Cross began emailing donors with specifics as in your blood went to this location. Wow. Great move. Stories connect us, make the act of donating personal. In the past, my blood has gone to Fairview Lakes Medical Center in Wyoming, Minnesota, and to Douglas County Hospital in Alexandria, Minnesota. I haven’t received notifications about my recent donations. Apparently this destination info is sporadic, according to a Red Cross scheduler who phoned the other evening to set up my next appointment in April.

But I do know that blood transfusions saved my mom’s life multiple times years ago. A single blood donation can help save up to three lives. So says info printed on my Red Cross donor card.

The Red Cross seemingly really really covets my blood, which is AB positive. Only four percent of the U.S. population has that blood type. But nearly 100 percent of patients can receive my blood. That info came in an email to me from the Red Cross. No pressure. Now I’ve also been asked to consider donating platelets, a process that can take up to two hours and which must be done at a donation center. For now I’m passing given the time and inconvenient metro location.

 

 

I will continue to give whole blood as long as I am able. The process is easy. And the need is always there. Every two seconds someone in America needs blood.

Please consider donating blood if you are eligible and able. The need is great to help save lives.

 

TELL ME: Has your life or that of someone you know/love been saved by a blood donation? I’d like to hear your stories.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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24 Responses to “Reflecting as I reach a milestone blood donation”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    My life was definitely saved in 1985 thanks to a blood donation after a particularly harrowing post childbirth experience. It was at the beginning of the AIDS crisis and a Navy corpsman cautioned my husband as I was in surgery about having me tested later. Not the words you want to hear when your wife is in a precarious state but God is good and I am here writing this today. I am not a blood donor (although I would love to be ) because….blood. Just don’t do well with seeing it at all so this is one thing I just cannot do . But kudos to you for your continued giving.

  2. Ruth Says:

    Giving all that life-saving blood to help others is to be commended, Audrey. That’s a lot of blood. I’ve seen signs for blood drives over the years but I never became a donor. I’m sorry now and can’t even explain why I was never moved to step up and give. Hearing you tell about your experiences giving and repeatedly makes it less daunting. Good you had your husband to demonstrate the ease of donating. Maybe your writing today will encourage others to give.

  3. Kiandra Judge Says:

    My dad had an aortic aneurysm about 10 years ago and had to have emergency surgery. He actually died on the operating table and, Thanks be to GOD, they brought him back! He had a blood transfusion that helped to save his life. There happened to be a blood drive at the hospital during his long recovery. My family all donated blood then and I have been donating as often as possible every since. I am on my way to 3 gallons. I also donate through the Red Cross and enjoy seeing where my donation goes with their follow up email. The time before last it went to Pennsylvania! A gift that saved my dad and now I can pay it forward.

  4. Valerie Says:

    This is a good reminder for me to make more of an effort to give blood. I have in the past, but not on a regular basis.

  5. Congratulations on your milestone! It’s such an important and practical thing people can do to help others, particularly when the blood type is rare. The same with organ donation. I started giving blood as soon as I was old enough and continued doing so until health issues in the past few years have prevented me from being able to donate (which makes me sad). When I die, they can have every single cell of mine that will enrich someone else’s life. It’s awesome they let you know where your blood was used. You’re doing a wonderful service!

  6. jhc1218 Says:

    My dad is a life long donor, so I started as soon as I was eligible at age 17. 20+ years later and I’ve only donated 3 gallons mostly due to low iron levels and travel restrictions. I’m out for another year since returned from Costa RIca a few weeks ago. Justin required numerous transfusions or blood and platelets during his battle with cancer. It’s really such an easy thing to do.
    -Jocelyn

    • Jocelyn, thank you for donating those three life-saving gallons and for starting your donations at such a young age.

      And thank you for sharing how blood and platelets helped Justin during his battle with cancer.

  7. Almost Iowa Says:

    Hey, I’m AB Negative. Talk about high-test!! But I haven’t been donating. [he says as he kicks himself]

  8. Sue Thesenga Says:

    Audrey – such a joy to read your post about being a dedicated blood donor. I’m the communications manager for the American Red Cross in Minnesota. Thank you for donating and encouraging others to join you. I’d love to talk with you and use your donation story to encourage others to donate. Let me know if you are interested. Thanks again for sharing your blood story on your blog.

  9. Neil Says:

    Over the years, I have had the privilege of working in both donor centers and hospital blood banks. Thankfully, the transfusion concerns that Beth Ann and her husband had back in the ’80’s are now little cause for worry. Beyond the screening questions that get asked of donors, there are also numerous tests that are performed on each and every unit of blood to ensure the safety of the recipients. The regulatory oversight is significant, and it calls for meticulous record keeping!

    You never know where those donations might end up. When I was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, every blood product that we used in our hospitals over there came from somewhere in the United States. It was interesting to think about the donors – I doubt that few of them ever thought that their blood might end up that far from home!

    • Thank you, Neil, for adding your comment. I hoped I would hear from you.

      You’re right in that most of us donors here in the U.S. would not think about our blood donations helping those deployed to Iraq and/or Afghanistan. Thank you for serving and for helping save lives.

  10. I appreciate you sharing the ease of donating blood as it is always needed by someone…somewhere! I witnessed many blood transfusions during my years as an ER and ICU nurse, and we have friend whose 8 year old boy needed hundreds of blood transfusions over a year because of a crazy autoimmune disease that almost took his life, his body stopped making red blood cells. He has since been cured and is back to being a healthy boy. I donated when I was in my teens till about 30, then my blood just couldn’t sustain the numbers it needed in order to donate. I still try on occasion but my numbers continue to be too low to donate. Thank you and Randy for being blood donors, God bless you both.
    P.S. I read somewhere today that in Sweden, you are sent a text message when your blood is being transfused. I think that kind of neat!

    • Jackie, thank you for being there for all those patients in need in the ER and ICU. It takes a compassionate and caring individual to be a nurse. I appreciate you and all the other medical personnel.

      I am thankful for the healing of your friend’s son.

      Texting when your blood is being transfused would be a powerful moment. I like that idea a lot.

  11. Rosalie Quale Says:

    I always aspired to get multiple gallons as you are working on now. Jon and I always gave blood until they determined that the amount of time we lived in Germany eliminated us.
    An extremely rare chance we may carry mad cow disease as it was in Europe at the time. Besides helping others and the Red Cross, I know there are some health benefits to the donor too. Oddly enough we can still donate bone marrow if we were ever determined to be a match with someone. Keep up the great work! I’m proud of you and Randy!

  12. Gunny Says:

    God Bless you all


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