Reames column: Giving blood

Published 10:21 am Friday, May 31, 2024

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There’s a funny episode of the NBC sitcom “The Office” in which a blood donation van visits the office park, and Steve Carroll’s Michael Scott encourages his employees to give blood. In the episode, Michael Scott himself sits down to donate and while there, he meets a nice woman that he spends the rest of the episode obsessing over. After he’s done with his donation, there’s a comedic moment where he jumps up right away and promptly passes out. That is actually a pretty accurate portrayal of what it feels like to give blood on an empty stomach. 

In fact, the whole sequence in the bloodmobile is depicted realistically. Though they don’t go into detail, that is essentially what it is like to give blood. Last week, I gave blood at the LifeSouth bloodmobile in Lanett. It seems like every day I pass by the Lanett Kroger, I see the bloodmobile — sometimes with balloons and a tube man waving around outside of it. Every day for a year and a half, I’ve told myself that I’d stop on a day when I had more time. 

That’s what it usually comes down to: a busy schedule and an inconvenient bout of dizziness. But finally, I decided to take the time to slow down for an hour and donate. If you’ve never donated, first of all, you get to fill out a lot of fun paperwork to figure out whether or not you’re eligible to give blood. Then, they take your blood pressure, prick your finger and test your hemoglobin (to make sure you’re not anemic). Then, you lie down and wait for the real needle. 

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When I gave blood, there was no one sitting nearby to strike up a conversation with but I did ask one of the LifeSouth workers some questions. I found out my blood type, and we chatted about how many people generally visit the bloodmobile. But what was really fascinating to me was where the donated blood goes. 

She told me that my blood would go to the LifeSouth lab that night to be separated into three bags. The blood would be separated into three components: red blood cells, platelets and plasma. From there, it would go to a patient somewhere. 

Each of these components is important for different functions in different kinds of patients. For example, platelet transfusions are used in treating different types of cancer. The platelets apparently help the body’s blood clot better. 

But a lot of times, the donations — particularly O negative blood donations — go to emergencies and trauma patients who have lost a lot of blood and need a transfusion. 

While I was there, I couldn’t help thinking about that episode of “The Office” and how routine a practice it is to “give blood.” Like on the television show, it’s something that people chat about over the water cooler or at their desk while killing time. 

But at my job, any given day could present us with a tragic or devastating news for the community. Since then, I’ve thought about the blood bank many times after the car accident last Thursday involving five Troup High School students, two of which were West Point natives. 

The two West Point girls were life-flighted to the nearest trauma center at Grady Hospital in Atlanta. More news has come out over the last week. Unfortunately, one of the girls, Mary Joy Moosman, passed away while Hadilee Arnold is still on life support. 

Giving blood sounds so easy and common place. Most people don’t give it a second thought. It’s just water cooler talk or the theme of the TV episode you watched last night or even a nagging inconvenience. 

But when a call comes over the police scanner that there’s been a police chase or a multi-vehicle crash, or an entire community is stopped in its tracks after news like West Point and LaGrange had this past week — those are the times when you realize that giving blood means giving life. It means giving a person a few extra days, minutes or hours. 

Most of us who give blood will never know who will end up receiving it. And to the families of the students from Troup High School, it does not matter much who did or didn’t give blood. But it is a good reminder of why it is so important for anyone who is willing and able to give blood when they can.