Blood Donor

by John Delach

In times of trouble, the New York area blood banks spring into action to appeal to the public for donations. This time Convid-19 is the reason. If I could donate, I would, and this is the reason why. 

I didn’t donate blood until I was well into my forties. It wasn’t that I was averse to the idea of giving blood that prevented me from becoming a donor earlier or fear that I would lose it, faint, or otherwise embarrass myself.

Rather, I led a world wind business life throughout the 80’s and 90’s with frequent travel to domestic and international destinations. I had places to go, flights to make, people to see to negotiate big deals, put out fires and keep my customers satisfied. Needless to say…  I lived in the fast lane.

A few things about that life, admittedly, it didn’t suck, but the risk / reward quotient was constant and without end. To describe what it was like, I have always taken pleasure in recounting a story told to me by the mother of my son’s best friend.

Diane explained, “I had picked up Mark and your son, Michael, from PYA, (our local little league association.) Driving home, Mark asked Michael: ‘Your father travels an awful lot; what does he do?’

Michael replied: ‘I’m not sure but he gets on airplanes, goes to different places, tells people what to do, and when they do it, he comes home.”

I kid you not, his version beat the hell out of reality.

My ignorance about giving blood ended the day my boss, Hobey Lockett, walked into my office to tell me that our colleague, Chuck, had terminal cancer and was receiving transfusions at Sloan-Kettering.

 “How can I help,” I asked?

Hobey replied: “Come with me tomorrow to donate blood in his name.”

I signed on and we donated the next day. Chuck didn’t survive but we continued to donate until his blood transfusions were paid back. Good deed done; I now knew that giving blood was a can-do event for me. I gave at office blood drives, at our local parish and a couple of one-off blood drives.

One day I received a call from the New York Blood Bank informing me that my A- blood was in high demand. They explained that it was especially needed for premature babies. Of course, I signed on and became a regular donor. As soon as they cleared me for my next donation, I would make my way to the blood bank’s facility located in the basement of Citicorp’s New York headquarters.

When someone would ask why I gave blood so often, I’d reply: “The blood bank folks have determined that my blood has an ingredient vital to premature babies, (wait for it) –  (wait for it): Alcohol.” Ha-ha.

One day, when I arrived for my appointment, a crew was filming a public service commercial for blood drives. Asked to participate, I agreed, and my pretty face ran on local TV ads for almost two years.  

But times change. Late in the 90’s a new question appeared on the list of restrictions that would prevent me from continued donations. At first blush, the question appeared to be innocuous: “Between 1975 and 1995, how many days did you spend in the United Kingdom?”

I read the question a second time. Now somewhat in shock, I called one of the nurses over and asked: “What is this question all about?”

After reading it, she explained: “Mad cow disease. The World Health Organization has decided that if a non-UK resident has spent over a year in Britain during those years, they are no longer eligible to give blood.”

“Kind of arbitrary, wouldn’t you say?”

“Perhaps, but that’s the way it is.”

Instinctively, I knew I had exceeded that time limit by my extensive travel to London during that very period. Reluctantly, I excused myself. Later, I called Rita C, the wife of one of my contacts at Exxon and a former UK RN. Rita simply said: “You have to obey the rules.”

Spoken like a true professional and someone I respected. Still, I felt the pain. Damn, I was doing good but, through no fault of my own, I had become unclean. Damn…and so it goes.

Oh well, I had my time at bat and life is good.

 Please GIVE BLOOD-It’s an absolute feel good thing to do and America needs your donation at this time of crisis. Understandably, blood banks reserves are at an all- time low as giving blood requires a huge leap of faith. You must abandon sheltering in place,  get into your car to reach your nearest blood bank, enter a strange building, wait with other strangers for a nurse, fill out a form, answer lots of questions and then take a blood test.

Only then will you be able to accept the needle and give blood, that is, if I didn’t miss a step.

Before the fact you will be nagged by friends and family not to do this and afterwards, you will be made to feel foolish, or simply a moron.

Nothing about giving blood in this time of National Emergency is easy. It is hard, very hard, hence the shortage of blood. No nagging from me. If you can, as the Marines’ recruiting slogan commands: THE FEW, THE PROUD…

And yet, to your own heart be true.