On June 2, we’re doing an outreach activity here at Metropolitan that I’m soooooooo excited about. We’re hosting a blood and bone marrow drive! (Sign up here) Don’t you DARE stop reading! I know you want to, because you’re most likely black, and black people don’t generally donate blood. It’s the truth. The stats are horrible or somewhat less horrible, depending on whom you believe. Only about 5 percent of the general population donates blood, and of that number, only 10 percent are African American – says the Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center1. Blood Centers of the Pacific reports that only 3 percent of their African American population donates blood2.
Has your mom, dad, uncle, aunt, sister, brother ever had surgery? Most likely they needed, and received, blood during the operation – blood that was supplied by donors; donors – people who didn’t know your mom, dad, uncle, aunt or sister, but who were kind enough to take 30 minutes of their day one day to share their blood – blood that helped save your mom’s/dad’s/uncle’s/aunt’s/sister’s life.
98 percent of people suffering from sickle cell anemia are African American, and most of those are children3. These children/people will need blood transfusions for their entire lives. I know this personally because the gentleman who kept my career at Oracle alive in 2002 when we went through a big riff suffered from sickle cell (he’s since died).
The irony is that while we black people have a great need in our community for blood, we, as an ethnicity that doesn’t donate, have the second highest rate of type O blood4 (51%; only Hispanics have a higher rate – 57%; and wouldn’t you know it – what are the populations that surround our church?). What's the big deal about type O blood? I can’t go into all of the details here, but type O blood is universal – meaning that it can be given to patients with any other blood type – especially important for emergency transfusions. (I’m not making this stuff up; click here and read it for yourself). By the way, if you donate, you'll find out your blood type (if you already know yours, come see me and I'll give you a dollar!) I'm...you guessed it - type O!
Most people don’t donate because they don’t know what the process involves, so I'm going to remove the fear of the unknown by telling you exactly what will happen. I started donating when I was 17. My school, Columbia Union College, hosted a blood drive and a couple of my (white) friends encouraged me to stop by (growing up in the Caribbean I’d never seen a blood drive). The process is really simple:
- You go through a mini health exam: they check your blood pressure, heart rate, ask you questions about your health and give you a little prick on your finger to check whether you’re anemic.
- After you clear the exam (you can’t donate if you’re anemic, have the flu, etc.), your blood is drawn. The Red Cross techs are awesome – my veins are horrible, as far as being able to find them to stick needles in them, but the tech always get it on the first try, and if the tech assigned to me thinks s/he will have a problem, they go get their ‘manager’ – a more experienced person – to do it, so I'm not being stuck over and over again.
- Depending on how fast your blood flows, it may take between 5 and 20 minutes for you to give the pint of blood (I’m a slow bleeder, so it takes me a little longer). But you’re sitting in a nice lounge chair, so you can take a little nap, or talk to the person next to you, or maybe MMM will set up a system so folks who are donating can watch the service.
- Once you’re finished, you move over to the canteen where they have you drink juice and eat cookies and they observe you for a few minutes to make sure you’re okay. You get a sticker or t-shirt that says you saved a life (how easy was that?), and you’re on your way. You have to take things easy for the rest of the day (no heavy lifting, running marathons – but it’s Sabbath, most of us were gonna go to sleep in the afternoon anyway)
I hear you still objecting.
How can I give my blood away? Don’t I need it?
This “fearfully and wonderfully made” body that we have – regenerates blood cells. Can you believe that? It’s as though God intended for us to share our blood. Yep – about eight weeks after you donate, you can donate again; you’ll have replaced all of the blood cells you gave at donation. The average adult has about 10 pints of blood and you’ll just be giving away one when you donate5.
I don’t like needles.
Seriously???? Get. Over. It. Do you have children? Have they ever visited the pediatrician and gotten shots? Why didn’t you prevent them from getting shots since you absolutely don’t like needles? Do you have eyes? Do they work? If so, you can ask the tech to tell you when s/he is getting ready to insert the needle and you can close your eyes so you don’t see the needle (it only hurts - for a couple of seconds - when they stick you; once the needle is in your vein, there's no pain).
They will ask me questions about my sexual history
Yes, they will. But they just want to rule out you being a male homosexual. Are you Adventist? Yes? Then it’s probably highly likely that you’re not a male homosexual – we don’t like those too much. Seriously though – the questions are all very basic, and you don’t know the person asking you the questions and they don’t know you, or care about your personal business. The questions are all asked in a private area - Pastor Billingy is not going to hear what you say, nor are they going to tell Pastor Johns what you said. They really, truly just want your blood.
Have more questions? The Red Cross has probably heard them all – click here for answers.
It’s time for me to end this blog, and I haven’t even yet gotten to tell you about joining the bone marrow registry (which just involves a swab of your cheek), and which you can also do on June 2 (or why you should all sign up to be organ donors). I’ve been a little mean as I wrote this, but it’s because our community is so horrible at doing this little thing that can help so many people, and I'm really impassioned about it. Instead of sitting around discussing whether President Obama is for or against gay marriage (who cares???), think about the following:
- Every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood
- More than 38,000 blood donations are needed every day
- Blood cannot be manufactured – it can only come from generous donors
- A single car accident victim can require as many as 100 pints of blood6
You can actually do something about this - you can save someone's life!!! Metro Connects through prayer, love and service. Giving blood will help you hit two of the three – love for your fellowman, and service.
Oh – I forgot to address one question: What on earth possessed the Health Ministries department to do this on Sabbath?? We should be in church!!!
And it was the sabbath day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes. (John 9:14)
And the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the sabbath day… (Luke 13:14)
And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days. (Matthew 12:11,12)
Then said Jesus unto them, I will ask you one thing; Is it lawful on the sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? to save life, or to destroy it? (Luke 6:9)
I leave you with this: Christians, of all people, should recognize the importance of someone giving blood to save the life of another.
Are you gonna join us and do this thing? If so, sign up here.