2005-02-25 / On Second Thought

Thirty–something speaks

It used to be easier to bleed

Mike Maddock
Mike Maddock The last time I gave blood was 1988. I was a senior in high school and my reasons for giving were less than honorable. Unfortunately, I had the teenage notion the world revolved around me, so I wasn’t giving my blood for any noble purpose like saving a life or helping someone with cancer. No...I was just trying to get out of class for an hour or so. I’d also heard from less than reliable sources that being down a pint could speed up the effects of late night, weekend activities.

Because this particular blood drive was on a Friday, the timing was perfect. But as is the case with most of the knowledge acquired from drinking buddies, the information I got was not quite accurate. My blood donation didn’t intensify my party mood. It just made me a little nauseous and sleepy, and I went home early that night. Which, looking back on it now, was probably a very good thing.

I gave blood again a few nights ago, and what struck me funny were the astounding differences in the process since my first endeavor in 1988. For starters, I’m a good bit older, and my motives are a little more philanthropic. Sure, my wife was the one who actually signed me up for the blood drive at my oldest daughter’s elementary school, but I was happy to do it.

Coincidentally, this blood drive was on a Friday again, but my drinking buddies are all family men now, and I’ll take any excuse to go to bed early. I’m also more aware of the world around me than I was as a teenager, and I realize the importance of donating blood. I obviously don’t do it often enough, but I now know how much one small pint can help, and I was glad to do my part.

Giving blood isn’t as easy as it used to be though. I think I filled out less paperwork when I closed on my house. Blood can be a dangerous thing these days, and blood collection agencies like the American Red Cross have to protect donors, recipients, and themselves from tainted supplies. I may have flashed my driver’s license and given the nurse my name back in 1988 before they strapped me to the chair, but I certainly don’t remember the litany of strange questions I encountered last Friday night.

I guess some potential donor addicted to heroin out there who has shared needles with half the population of Haiti in a malaria–infested swamp, might have understood them a bit better. I understood the AIDS test and the quest to uncover other communicable diseases streaming through the blood supply, but I still didn’t quite get all the questions.

I suppose if they did find something wrong with donated blood they could look back at the questionnaire and say, “Aaah, yes! Here is the problem...he had several close encounters with multiple Cotton–Top Tamarin monkeys back in 1994!”

I don’t know, but I’d rather answer 100 questions concerning my social history than receive the dreaded call–back, which is exactly what happened a couple days after I gave blood. The only reason blood donation organizations call donors after the fact is to give them bad news. The American Red Cross called me Sunday night and before the nice lady on the other end of the phone could tell me anything I hung up on her thinking she was just another telemarketer. But as I walked back to the couch and the movie I was watching with my family, it donned on me the Red Cross rarely, if ever, solicits donations over the phone.

Then my wife asked if something might be wrong with my blood. It never occurred to me, but what if I had forgotten about some wild night in Haiti?

I was furiously researching my memory banks trying to find out where something might have gone wrong when the nice lady from the Red Cross called back. After I apologized profusely for hanging up on her, she informed me that she was just trying to confirm I was the same Mike Maddock that donated blood back in 1988.


Blood donation saves lives. Many admirable people give their blood more than once every 17 years or so for no other reason than to help those in need, and they are to be commended. I can’t promise a quick buzz or immunity from some embarrassment for those who dined with West African monkeys once or twice, but I can promise that donated blood helps...a lot. I won’t wait another 17 years this time. Besides, who knows what the questions will be like then?!?

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