Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Traveling with kids or not, consider becoming a blood donor

This blog is all about traveling with kids, not Public Service Announcements. However, today I'm making an exception to promote a cause.

There are lots of ways we can help other people in this world out: by sharing our wealth or our time or our ideas or our advice. We can also donate blood. Donating blood is actually a very easy way to help out other people in need.

I've been donating blood since I was in my late teens. My dad did it when I grew up in Sweden, and that's how I started. When I moved to Canada in the 1990s, I stopped for a while, but now I'm back and donating regularly at a local school where Canadian Blood Services sets up shop, every 6th Sunday.

Why do it? To quote Canadian Blood Services' own website
Approximately every minute of every day, someone in Canada needs blood. In fact, according to a recent poll, 52 per cent of Canadians say they, or a family member, have needed blood or blood products for surgery or for medical treatment.
The good news is that one blood donation - in just one hour - can save up to three lives.
Does it hurt? Well, they prick my finger to test my hemoglobin level, and then they put the needle in my arm to get the blood out. It stings a bit, but there's no major pain involved.

How long does it take? All in all, 45 minutes to an hour, depending on how busy the volunteer nurses are. 

What do I get from it? Besides the feeling that I'm doing something to help others, I get a sticker (that my kids promptly steal usually), cookies and a drink. Sometimes a pin too. (Depending on where you live, you might get more than that for a blood donation: I know that both in Sweden and the US it's possible to get cash for your blood.) I also feel that being a blood donor sets a good example for my kids. They've come along to the blood donor clinic a couple of times and seen what happens and take it as a normal (though kind of boring) thing to do. 

Who can do it? It depends on where you live. Rules and regulations vary. In Canada, there are some basic eligibility rules. The Canadian Blood Services might turn you down for various reasons, for example if you grew up in certain countries, if you've had certain diseases, or spent time in certain parts of the world. Check the rules where you live if you are interested in becoming a blood donor.

I know that donating blood is not for everyone. I know there are many people who can't because of health issues, and those who are not comfortable donating for other reasons: fear of needles, bad past experiences when having blood drawn, and so on. (Though for me, becoming a blood donor cured my intense fear of needles.) But if you've ever thought about becoming a donor, think about it again and take the next step by calling to set up an appointment.
  • If you live in Canada, check out Canadian Blood Services' website to find a blood donor clinic near you. Or call 1 888 2 DONATE.
  • If you live in the United States, you can contact the American Red Cross.
  • If you live in Sweden, you can check this webpage for Blodcentralerna.
  • If you live in another country, Google blood donation for your specific area, or contact the agency responsible for blood donations.
Like the slogan says here in Canada: "It's in you to give."

Graphic from the Canadian Blood Services website.

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