Looking for a 2018 Resolution? Try Donating Blood

01/13/2018 10:59 pm ET Updated Jan 14, 2018
Joelle Zarcone

I recently read this letter that’s been floating around the internet, and while the whole thing struck a chord, the last two paragraphs particularly resonated with me. They’re about donating blood, and how deeply it affects more people than you might realize.

Like for the author of that letter.

Or for people dealing with the aftermath of recent natural disasters, or chronic disease, or who were in a car accident or had surgery, for example.

And for me.

I care a whole heck of a lot about the blood supply in the United States, because quite frankly, without it I wouldn’t be writing to you today.

I’ve relied on donated blood to live since just about forever. Or more specifically, since a bone marrow biopsy when I was six months old diagnosed me with a rare form of anemia that causes my body to not make enough red blood cells (also known as Thalassemia).

I’m 31 now, and have gotten blood transfusions every couple of weeks since then. You can do the math.

I’m no science teacher, but here’s a quick lesson on blood. Ready? Red blood cells circulate throughout our body, carrying oxygen from our lungs and over to the rest of our organs and tissues via a protein called hemoglobin. In a nutshell, you need a certain amount of red blood cells - and therefore a certain amount of hemoglobin - to live.

Until now, I’d only shared my situation with family and a handful of close friends. Not that it’s a secret, but I never wanted to draw attention to myself, or make people feel like they had to view me differently; I didn’t want someone to cut me any breaks or make exceptions. Because really, thanks to donated blood and some rockstar nurses and doctors, I’ve thus far led an extremely normal and wonderful life; I went to grad school, I have a steady job, I’m engaged to be married, and I’m mom to an extremely needy and dramatic puppy. In other words, I’m a normal person, with hardships like every other human. So why should I tell people about this part of my life? While extremely integral to having made me the person I am, it is just that — a part of me. It’s not something I ever felt needed a special light shined upon.

But after reading that letter, it occurred to me that maybe people don’t realize how important it is to donate blood. Maybe not everyone understands that it matters, or what a tremendous gift it is to a person you likely don’t know and will never meet. And I thought maybe 2018 was the year for me to start being more honest about my experiences, in the hope that someone reading might have a lightbulb moment of their own, recognizing that donating blood is an incredible, selfless, simple act that most people can do to give back to the universe.

So, consider this my own {extremely personal} PSA.

Donating red blood cells doesn’t take long and needles are not scary, I promise! And most likely, you’ll end up leaving with some juice and a cookie. I mean, feels like a win-win, if you ask me.

There’s a major blood shortage in the United States, and while that is not necessarily at the top of most people’s minds or the most popular item posted on social media, it matters, and it likely affects a lot more people in your life than you’re aware of. And honestly, it might even affect you someday. I sure hope not, but life is precious and unpredictable. Access to a safe blood supply starts with people donating. With doing this one, small act that has the power to give someone else a real chance at a healthy, long life.

If you’re looking for a 2018 resolution, I sure hope you choose that one.

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