A volunteering story by: Diane Damplo

At first, when Rob chose donating blood as the topic for this interview I thought it might not be a good fit as it relates to volunteering. But the more I learned the more I felt convinced that this experience was perfect. Rob has made 55 donations of over 11 gallons of blood since 1990. He’s had his name put up on a plaque on the wall at one of the Blood Banks and at one point was even awarded a genuine ten gallon hat, which he declined to accept. Not only does Rob donate pints of whole blood he recently became a “Super Donor,” and began making donations of plasma &/or platelets. These materials are of a more concentrated benefit to recipients, although the donation process takes much longer – up to 2 hours or so versus ½ hour for a whole blood donation. Surprisingly, a donation of platelets or plasma can be made more often because the unused components of the blood are returned to the donor. The nurses draw less fluid. The procedure is similar to a regular donation in that you are given a medical interview, have your temperature, pulse and heart rate taken and you have your blood tested for iron sufficiency. You are urged to drink plenty of fluids beforehand to increase the amount in your system and afterwards to replace it in your body.
The blood banks have certainly got more high tech over the years. While your blood is being drawn you can watch television, videos and movies or listen to music. It’s also a great time to catch up on phone calls; although letter writing is discouraged . You don’t want to disturb the position of the all-important needle.

The Inspiration

Rob was inspired by his dad who was an avid donor at a time when it was a less well known opportunity. When Rob was growing up few if any of his friend’s parents donated regularly, at least not anonymously. His dad did it because it was right thing to do. In fact his father was an avid volunteer, offering his services to many efforts, including at his church, town meetings, the town band and boy scouts. Rob said his dad’s selfless efforts were humbling. He tries to follow in his father’s footsteps but can never quite admit to be completely comparable.
It may sound strange but some folks are inspired by the fact you lose a little weight, at least in the short-term because a pint of blood weighs about one pound. We wouldn’t suggest that ladies consider donating just to fit better into their prom dress, but worse things could happen. Sometimes the Center’s reaches out for certain types of rare blood types. And sometimes they reach out for the most common type: O positive. An O positive person is considered a universal donor, because O positive is more generic and can occasionally used in a transfusion to someone of a different type.
Rob said that his initial donation was inspired by the ½ day off his employer gave to donors as an incentive (in circa 1976). Ok – so he needed a little push. Then there was a program where donors were eligible for unlimited transfusions for a year after a donation. It’s truly the gift that money can’t buy.

The Aha! moment…

Rob said he learned that the process of giving can be enormously beneficial to both the giver and the recipient, not just because it is emotionally and spiritually rewarding to donate, but it can be physically helpful as well. After you donate, your heart needs to work a little bit harder to replace the blood that was taken. Donating exercises and strengthens the heart muscle and revives your own system with clean and fresh fluids. Your blood may begin to flow better. And when you donate you lose a little bit of iron which is a good thing. Too much iron is never good for the blood vessels. You need to take it easy for the next day so as not to tax yourself but once you get used to the feeling you hardly skip a beat. Pun intended!
Donating helps us appreciate our good health and fitness, and it feels good to help unknown recipients with a truly priceless gift. Some folks will willingly donate for themselves (e.g. for an upcoming operation) and some won’t donate beyond their own families. Rob has never had a problem with the anonymity of the gift. It doesn’t make it any less appreciated. It’s kind of fun to use your imagination and think of who you may have helped. The sky’s the limit. A needy little curly haired toddler who had a runaway tricycle accident? A frequent recipient with a chronic blood disorder? Just please don’t say the blood went to someone having an elective cosmetic procedure. Anonymous is anonymous but that would take all the fun out of it.

To summarize it in three words…

  • Philanthropy, health, karma

Why should you do this

Rob said that he would definitely recommend that other folks pursue this opportunity. Just about everyone knows somebody who has required hospitalization or surgery and the procedures involved likely required some amount of blood.
As he put it, there’s no substitute for human blood, and only certain people with good medical backgrounds and blood types are eligible to donate. Therefore, many potential donors may be disqualified in spite of good intentions. It’s a gift of life and the pool of eligible donors is limited, so those of us fortunate enough to qualify should count our blessings and roll up the sleeves…. literally…..

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