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Becoming a 56er

June 3rd, 2014 | Posted by MDI in Only Connect!

How did I become a 56er, one who gives blood every eight weeks?  I have tried for days, weeks to come up with the “right” answer, the “right” answer being the one which makes the subject go “ding” for readers and makes them want to do it, as well.  And, why is that? Why should I want something I write to cause more people to be repeat, or even first-time, donors?

There are obvious answers, of course. There’s always a need, a constant need, for blood. There’s a statistic that the average donor gives something like 1.7 times. And, there’s more, much more in ready supply at the Red Cross and multiple other websites. There is no dearth of information about how much the country needs donors. Any one can look it up.  I probably knew most of this, as well, before it ever occurred to me to actually donate. I don’t remember.  I do remember thinking “someone else will handle it.” I thought that, for sure. Just like how “someone else” will dial 911 when they drive by an accident.

But the truth is, I have no idea what would go “ding” for someone else. I’m not even sure what did it for me.  I saw a T-shirt recently with this sentiment printed on it: “From the outside looking in, you can never understand it. From the inside looking out, you can never explain it.”   Although, this was a slogan of uncertain provenance, unrelated with giving blood,  it expresses the essence of trying to talk with someone about donating blood even once, never mind every fifty-six days.

Once you’re doing it, you can’t imagine not doing it. You see how easily it’s been folded into your life, how you’ve made it work and how good it feels to contribute.  That’s certainly true for my journey. I gave once, for the first time in my life, a true 1st Timer, at the second annual MDI/Honyotski drive many Junes ago. I was afraid of the process, having recently had major surgery and rehab requiring many needles per day, and I was a little gun-shy. There were men all around my gurney, witnessing, supporting and helping me through it.

For some reason (and I truly do not know why), then, I found myself making appointments to donate every 56 days. At some point, I started asking other men if they wanted to come with me and have breakfast beforehand.

And, oh sure, it’s a great chance to get my blood pressure and pulse checked with regularity, and to find out my iron level, and to try and get a PR (personal record) for the time it takes to fill a bag and to have friendly competition with other men, and breakfast is always great. Sometimes there’s cool swag given away to donors, too.  And, I know it feels good to give something that will help others and I like feeling part of a bigger whole. I’m thinking of the Poet of the Yukon, Robert Service’s line in The Call of the Wild: ‘Grown bigger in the bigness of the whole’.

But, really, it’s been the accretion of many days, many drops of blood, many breakfasts and it’s simply a part of my life that I had never planned on.

Craig Jones, June 2, 2014

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