Thursday, Apr 26, 2018
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Op-Ed Columns

Don't wait to become a donor

RETURNING to my office midday, I found a phone message from the local chapter of the American Red Cross. Helen, last name not given, had called and left the following single-word plea: "Help!" Upon speaking to her, I was told that a blood emergency existed and my type was desperately needed. Not finding the words to say no to Helen, and no doubt wanting to feel good about myself, I agreed and scheduled an appointment for later that same afternoon.

The last time I had donated blood was about five years ago. It was at my kids' school. I nearly fainted and would have but for a fast thinking phlebotomist who threw my back down and my legs up; hardly a heroic posture for dad to his 7-year-old. But the feeling quickly passed, as did my apparent willingness to give.

But, now, after donating blood once again, I remember what a great experience it is. After getting my temperature taken, blood pressure and pulse rate were checked. Then came my favorite part - no, not the cookies and juice - but instead the series of questions which determine eligibility to donate.

After all, who wouldn't like answering a bunch of questions about themselves?

Here are a few: Do you weigh at least 110 pounds? Even though I lied about my current weight, I safely exceeded the minimum guideline, and I wasn't asked to step on a scale.

Ever suffered from jaundice? No.

Tattoo or recent piercing? Huh? Apparently this goes to the sterility of the instruments used.

Ever a member of the U.S. military? No. Okay, so maybe I do have a jaundiced streak running down my spine, but I was cleared to give.

Intravenous drug use? No. (A big sigh of relief; no questions about inhalations two decades ago.)

After answering the questions (which, for the modest, can be done privately on a computer), I was led to the giving area, sat upon a padded table, needled, and quickly drained. In a plug for my profession, of the four tables in use at the time, two were occupied by lawyers.

And, yes, folks, we do bleed blood. Red, at that.

After less than 10 minutes on the table, I got free pop and cookies, read the paper, and left a few minutes later. Total elapsed time: about 30 minutes. And if willing, I'll be able to give again in about two months.

After leaving the Red Cross, I felt so good about myself that I proudly displayed the Band-Aid to my kids while telling them of dad's heroism.

Later that night, to further celebrate my act of courageous selflessness, I took my middle child and her friend for ice cream. And wouldn't you know it, but standing in front of me at the ice cream shop, listening to me brag about my minor blood-letting, was none other than Dusty Tyukody.

You may recall her story in The Blade in 2003. At that time, and at age 56 and healthy, this Toledoan donated a kidney to a complete stranger. Her revolutionary reason: "If I've got two and they don't have any, why should I wait until I'm dead?"

A living kidney donation to a stranger had, until that time, never been performed in northwest Ohio. Dr. Michael Rees, one of the recently re-named University of Toledo Medical Center surgeons who participated in the transplant, told The Blade: "What we have here is a fairy tale story. It brings me to tears."

With that, I introduced Ms. Tyukody to my daughter and her friend, silently peeled off the Band-Aid, rolled down my wrinkled sleeve, ordered ice cream, and stopped thinking about myself.

Every two seconds in the United States someone needs blood. But according to the American Red Cross, only 5 percent of the eligible population donates in any given year. That's outrageous and unacceptable. As an eligible donor, I had to ask myself why I had not given in so many years. Embarrassingly, the answer was clear: I wasn't too busy, I was simply too selfish.

Thank you, Dusty.

Samuel Z. Kaplan is a Toledo attorney.

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