The National Catholic Review

                                      "It will have blood, they say; blood will have blood."                                                

                                                                                                -Macbeth

I am ashamed to admit that I took several decades to commit to donating blood regularly. As a young woman I was too squeamish. As a young mother I was too busy (or so I told myself). My husband has long been a faithful blood donor, and finally, as a middle-aged woman with self-sufficient children, I ran out of excuses not to join him.

Besides, I am O-negative, which makes my blood extremely desirable as the universal donor. After I gave blood once, the blood bank called me every time the blood mobile was going to be in town. Sometimes I had other plans. Sometimes I was lazy. Once I was finishing a course of antibiotics, which meant that, after I made the effort to show up at the blood mobile, they didn't want my blood. Usually, I was too selfish to be inconvenienced by an hour of siphoning and snacking. Plenty of other people had time to give their blood, I thought. They can get by another month without mine.

If you've never donated blood, this is what happens: if you are at least 17 and weigh at least 110 pounds, neither of which is an issue for me, some very nice people will interview you and screen you. They take your temperature, pulse, and blood pressure, and check your iron level. Then they hook your arm up to a tube through which a pint of your blood snakes into a bag, from which it will eventually, after further testing, snake back out into someone who needs it. Since the average body has 10-12 pints of blood, you will replenish this lost fluid in about a day. When you are finished, you kick back for a bit. They give you assorted juices and snacks before letting you go on your way. It's not such a difficult way to spend an hour.

But not enough of us take the time to donate blood. Only one person in 20 regularly donates, even though most of us are eligible. So I was lucky that when my dad needed massive amounts of blood, other people had not been too busy to donate their blood.

For several years before he died, my dad had something bad going on with his platelets, which meant that, if he cut himself or had any kind of surgery, he lost lots and lots of blood. My mother once had to call 911 for help after a minor procedure from which the hospital had sent my dad home without stitches: not so minor when the kitchen floor looked like there had been a murder.  ("Yet who would have thought," asked Lady Macbeth, "the old man to have had so much blood in him?"  My mother knew the feeling.) The folks who donated blood in Los Angeles extended my dad's life.

My family was grateful to the strangers who inconvenienced themselves to give such a generous and intimate gift, and so I resolved to be one of them. I have given blood regularly ever since, and will continue to do so as long as my blood is useable. It is one of my favorite charities. Someday, if someone else's dad is saved with my blood, I will have returned a life-giving favor.    

Valerie Schultz