I found out a while back that my blood is type o-negative.
I'd always thought it was just a cool name for a band.

Turns out it means I am a universal donor, meaning anybody can take my blood by transfusion. And also it is a really cool name for a band.

So I'm acutely aware that I don't give blood as often as I should. I go about 3 times a year, give or take, but I could go every 2 months. Every 2 weeks for donating platelets. And, barring certain stipulations, you could too. The need for you to give cannot be overstated, even if it's only once. In the US alone, every 2 seconds, someone needs blood. Giving blood is a life-saving gift that's also free, save for the prick of a needle and possibly a slight case of the woozies. It is worth it. We all need it, and, to paraphrase someone, from all of our lives some of it will spill.

You should go out and give blood right now, if you're able. Here is an easy blood bank locator. I'll wait.

Thank you
Thank you
Thank you SOOO much
Those 30 needy people every minute also extend their (literally) heartfelt thanks.

But this diary isn't only about the ever-present need for platelets, plasma and whole blood of all types.

I hadn't thought through what the "universal" in "universal donor" really means.

I was at the clinic a few days back. And in the time of waiting I started thinking, and people-watching of course. Unsurprisingly there was a plethora of melanin combinations in the place. One of the nurses is black, and one is Venezualan. There was a black couple and their teenage son. A white couple and their adopted Korean daughter. Three adults that I think were Brazilian. Three of the nurses were white, and seven of us donors were also. In bone-white northwestern lower Michigan. Again, that was expected, I knew the nurses already and it always seems to be that way.

I'd never thought about what it meant. 'Till I looked at my fingernail alongside the nice old black nurse's fingernail, while she was doing the capillary test. And they were the exact same shade. At contrast with the tones surrounding, but unmistakably the same.  
Then I looked over at some bags of blood sitting over on a table nearby,
I paused
and my thoughts went around the world.

To the whole beautiful sum of homo sapiens.

My eyes started tears, as they sometimes do.

We are all connected through our life's blood. That slippery all-important ooze, that communication device/transportation system/ongoing logistical construct, that stuff that most often is seen following pain, it binds us all at our very root. And it also makes our naked flesh, such as that covered by our nails, a ubiquitous and pleasant shade of pink.

My pink fingernail has 70 billion brothers and sisters, give or take, plus the same number of toenails, on many different colored fingers and toes stretching all the way around the world and to every single continent. And it doesn't matter if a person is from Jakarta, Phnom Penh, Bogota or Berlin; Port-au-Prince, Casablanca, Khartoum or Karachi; it doesn't matter if they are Inuit or African or Asian or aboriginal Australian; if they need my blood, I can and would give it.

Whoa. I'd never thought of it like that before, and it shook me when I did.

The bonds between us are mightier than the strife.

9:37 AM PT: Andrew F Cockburn reminded me of something in the comments:

Regular blood donation is associated with longer life. I assume that it is the same reason that pre-menopausal women have a much lower risk of heart attacks.

So give blood. The life you save may be your own!

4:08 PM PT: Two cautions from Throw The Bums Out in the comments:

Even if you are only donating whole blood try to avoid taking any aspirin for a few days before the donation if possible to avoid or at least reduce any bruising.  Of course, don't stop aspirin therapy without the approval of your doctor but if you can then reach for the Advil or Tylenol for that headache instead of aspirin if you are going to donate blood soon.

If you've had trouble with your veins you should

go to a fixed donation center rather than a blood drive.  With the blood drives I have been to, they had to dig around for a couple of minutes until they hit a vein at random.  Not only is that quite painful but it will leave a bruise from your armpit to your wrist that will take over a month to heal.

Originally posted to Hammerhand on Sun May 18, 2014 at 08:08 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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