Last week, I had the chance to help out my fellow human beings. The chance to be a part of something greater than myself — the chance to give blood.

Now, I know blood donation is not for everyone, and this is not meant to disparage those who can’t or don’t care to give. But for those of you who have considered it or those of you who gave once and simply “haven’t had time” to give again, I encourage you to do so.

The thing about giving blood is this — you give yourself in every biological sense of the word. All your genetic makeup is swimming around in the sweet, red stuff coursing through your veins. And while you can spill some of it with a tumble off your bike or splatter it against your arm with a well-aimed mosquito swat, you can also give another person the ability to keep on living. You have the power to save a life simply by filling out a questionnaire, passing a screening and sitting in a chair for 10 minutes. A swab of iodine, a needle prick and BOOM — life force donated.

It had been years since I gave blood, and I must admit, the Vinton County Red Cross promise of a free ticket to Kings Island was just the motivation I needed. I feel so lame admitting that, knowing what it means to give blood. My grandfather had several transfusions throughout the course of his illness (a combination of all sorts of badness — his greatest regret, kids, was taking up smoking) and that blood kept him going long enough for him to make peace with himself and share with us his last goodbyes. To say my family will forever be grateful is an understatement.

Yet what makes me feel even more disappointed in myself is how easy it was. I called, made an appointment and just showed up. After years of thinking “I should do that again sometime, maybe or something,” I finally did it and was left wondering why I had dragged my feet.

A dear friend of mine is a huge proponent of blood and bone marrow donation. Her father — whom I never met, but he produced a brilliant and wonderful daughter, so he must have been awesome — was diagnosed with acute myeogenous leukemia a little over four years ago. He had multiple blood transfusions as he waited for a bone marrow transplant, a move that was crucial to his survival. Sarah’s family wouldn’t have had that extra time with him if it hadn’t been for the blood donors in that first month.

He would get that bone marrow transplant eventually, thanks to donor number 058861899, an O-positive 25-year-old male. They saved the donor bag his stem cell transplant came in (which is far less creepy than it sounds) and set a place for him every Thanksgiving. As a fellow O-positive 20-something, to think that I may one day hold a place of anonymous honor at a family’s dinner table is a wild thought.

Sadly, Sarah’s father passed away this year, after having been leukemia-free for a year before being diagnosed with throat and multiple skin cancers. But those four years began with that first month. and July 19 at the McArthur Fireman’s Hall, 117 people gave that gift 300 times over. Because one unit of blood can help up to three people, the day’s total number of productive units can help triple the number of people — a crucial fact in a time of critical blood shortage.

“This blood drive is a really big deal for us,” blood drive coordinator Shelly Horvath said in a press release. “We routinely exceed our goal which is important because there is such a great need for blood donations. Also, we have a lot of first time donors, and they often become repeat donors.”

Sixteen Red Cross staff were assigned to the July blood drive, more than double the usual staff component, the release said. Walk-ins who showed up without an appointment had to wait quite a while, but everything from my standpoint seemed to run smoothly as we all traded a bag of blood for a thrill ride.

The next Vinton County Community blood drive will take place Aug. 8. Appointments to donate blood at the bloodmobile can be made by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or by going to www.redcrossblood.org. Be sure to tell them you are in the Central Ohio Blood Services Region and want to make an appointment for the Vinton County Community Blood Drive when you call. Most healthy people who are at least 17 years old and weigh 110 pounds or more are eligible to donate every 56 days. If you donated on or before May 24, you may be eligible to donate. For more information call 591-6649 or email shellyhorvath@yahoo.com.

As for me, I’ll be back for my next eligible drive in October — and that’s a promise you can take to the blood bank.

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