Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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

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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

 

Making donating blood just a little more personal February 8, 2018

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My blood donation card in my wallet. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

I GIVE BLOOD to the American Red Cross whenever I can. Like last evening, at the Eagles Club in Faribault. I’m not paid. I just do it because it’s the right thing to do. Because blood transfusions saved my mom’s life years ago. Because I am healthy and able and I can help. My rare blood type, AB+, is always in high demand.

Admittedly I was a late-comer to this, having watched my husband donate blood for years before deciding I could do this, too. Now we go together, race each other in how long it will take to fill our blood collection bags. I usually win. We have a little fun.

Beyond the physical act of donating, I’ve never thought about what happens to my blood once it leaves Faribault. Now I know thanks to the Red Cross. The past two times I’ve given, I’ve received follow-up emails telling me specifically where my blood went. My mid-December donation went to Fairview Lakes Medical Center in Wyoming, Minnesota. Months earlier, my blood helped a patient at Douglas County Hospital in Alexandria, Minnesota.

It’s a brilliant idea, this sharing of location information. Although I will never know the name of the person whose life I may have helped save, I now feel a personal component to giving blood. And anytime that happens, we grow closer as humans in a world that, although deeply technologically connected, often feels more distant and uncaring than ever.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling