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Have you ever donated blood?

“Would you like to donate blood today?”

“Sorry, I can’t” – is my recurring refrain as I hurry on by.

Guilt washes over me as I avert my eyes from the bloodmobile and the people tasked with trying to encourage passersby to stop and give. The voice in my head says, “They don’t believe you, that you can’t give blood. They think you’re just too lazy, or too selfish, or too scared of needles.”

Well, the fear of needles is certainly true, but the inability to give is also true. As a survivor of childhood leukemia, nobody wants my one-pint donation, I can guarantee you that.

There’s no way of knowing how many people’s blood coursed into my veins to keep me alive through three rounds of chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant. Although survivors of many types of cancers can indeed be blood donors, once they have fully recovered, those with a history of leukemia, lymphoma or other blood cancers can’t. Go figure.

As lifeblood.com.au words it, “It’s to protect your health and the health of patients who receive donated blood.”

Cancer.org adds, “Some cancer survivors may find these precautions frustrating. They may be eager to donate blood to help others with cancer, just as they were helped by transfusions during their treatment. Everyone should remember, though, that the most important goal in blood banking is to ensure the safety of the blood supply and to protect those who get the transfusions.”

Here’s where the problem lies for me. While it’s true that I genuinely can’t give blood, I must confess I haven’t always “found these precautions frustrating.” There have been times when I’ve been secretly grateful to have that legitimate excuse. I really do hate needles. So, herein lies the source of my guilt.

You know what, though? I think if I could give, I would. I think I would overcome my needle-aversion and step up to help those in need. I hope I would.

I’m certainly a grateful recipient. While there’s no way of knowing how many people’s blood donations kept me alive, one thing I do know is what would have happened to me without those life-giving donations. I don’t think I have to spell it out for you.

January is National Blood Donor Month. If you don’t have a medical reason not to give blood, I want to encourage you do it. Even if you’re busy, even if you’re afraid of needles, take this opportunity to be a lifesaver. People need you.

On the flip side, if you do have a medical or other reason that you can’t give, you don’t have to feel guilty or ashamed – even if you’re sometimes secretly happy to have the excuse. We can all only do what we can do, and given the opportunity and ability, I think we would all do more.

“Would you like to donate blood today?”

What will your answer be? Check out our community calendar on A3 for some upcoming opportunities in Franklin County through LifeSouth.

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