Five years ago, my family was handed devastating news: My father was diagnosed with Stage 4 esophageal cancer. Because his cancer was so advanced, there was little hope that radiation and a chemotherapy regimen would keep him alive beyond a year.
As we processed the terrible news, our lives quickly became a frenzied battle to keep him alive for as long as possible. We sought second opinions, read everything we could on his disease, and spent many, many hours in the hospital as he received a slew of medications and procedures aimed at giving us a few more months.
And he received almost 100 units of blood during the nine months he fought his cancer.
Of all of the treatments he received, blood transfusions were the most profoundly moving to me. As I’d watch the blood slowly flow into my father’s veins and see him perk up with more energy and color in his cheeks, I’d send up a silent prayer of thanks to the kind soul who took the time out of his or her day to donate the miracle in the little red bag to my dad. Cancer patients rely heavily on blood donations, and though I had given hundreds of blood transfusions to patients in my career as a nurse, it wasn’t until my father needed the kindness of strangers to survive that blood donation became a cause that I champion tirelessly.
I believe firmly that every able-bodied, healthy adult should donate blood regularly. And yet when the topic comes up, you would think that I was asking people to saw off their leg with a butter knife. People practically run for the hills when I suggest becoming a blood donor, and I cannot wrap my brain around the excuses I’ve heard over the years.
Luckily for you, I’ve come up with 23 reasons for you to make an appointment at your local blood donation center right this very minute.
1. Blood donation makes you a real live superhero. I mean, who doesn’t want to add “Superhero” to their resume?
2. Blood drive volunteers are awesome. Seriously. I’ve never met a nicer group of people, and I promise, they will make you smile as you do your good deed.
3. Blood donation takes under an hour. If you have time to watch This Is Us, you have time to donate a unit of blood.
4. Donating blood doesn’t cost a dime.
5. There is a mother sitting in an ICU right now, praying that her child will make it through the night. Donating a unit of your blood will ensure that a child like hers will have the best chance at survival.
6. You get to lie down for 20 minutes or more. I mean, they practically force you to sit back and relax. What’s not to love about that?
7. If you can find the time to get your hair highlighted, you can find the time to make sure a cancer patient will be able to smile at his granddaughter when he comes home from his treatments.
8. You get to eat donuts afterward. Yup. It’s medically necessary to replenish your blood supply after a blood donation. You get to eat donuts and drink juice as you high five yourself for being a superhero.
9. Blood donation makes you feel like you are doing something for your community.
10. Someday, you or a loved one could be in a situation where you need a lifesaving unit of blood. Karma is a real thing. Donate blood and put good karma out into the world.
11. If you bring a friend, you can race to see who fills their bag the fastest. Yes, I’ve done this. And yes, I always win. Don’t judge me because I’m competitive, okay? I want to win at saving lives, people.
12. Blood donation could make you live longer because studies show that people who volunteer and perform altruistic acts live longer, healthier lives. Being a superhero and living longer? That’s a win-win in my book.
13. Yes, there are needles involved, and yes, I know you don’t like needles. Get over it and donate anyway.
14. I know, you have a fresh tattoo and that prevents you from donating blood right now. But mark your calendar for a year from now: You can donate blood a year after getting a tattoo.
15. Oh, you don’t know how to find your local blood donation center? No worries! The American Red Cross can help you with that. Problem solved.
16. Blood donors are badass. In fact, I think that needs to be on bumper sticker.
17. Blood drives often benefit local children or adults in your community. Can you really live with the knowledge that your next door neighbor or your son’s classmate needs your help and you did nothing?
18. Your blood donation appointment means you can skip doing laundry for that hour or two. I don’t know about you, but I find this to be a total bonus.
19. You get to walk around for the entire day and tell everyone you meet that you were a hero today. And you’ll have the sticker on your shirt to prove it. Admit it: You love stickers too.
20. You can donate every two months which means six times a year you can loudly declare to your family that you are, in fact, a hero and therefore should be taken out to dinner.
21. If you’ve never donated blood, there’s a first time for everything. Be brave, make the appointment, and bask in the glow of your badassery.
22. In this tough political climate, it can feel some days that you are helpless to be the change you want to see in the world. Blood donation allows you to be that change.
23. As you sit in the donation chair, you realize how lucky you are to be healthy. Your health is a gift that you are bestowing on someone who needs some of your liquid awesome to survive.
While my father lost his brave battle with cancer, blood donation allows me to keep his memory alive. When I’m in the donation chair, I close my eyes and smile and think of the times that we’d spend long hours chatting at his hospital bed. As I feel the blood pulse in my arm and watch my little red bag fill, I know I’m creating a miracle for someone else, and I can feel my dad smiling with every heartbeat.