Casual Friday – National Volunteer Week and Blood Donation


Because this is National Volunteer Week and I just donated blood a few days ago, I want to take this opportunity to rerun a popular post I wrote in January about the importance of blood donation:Last June, I wrote a blog post listing “Five Reasons You Should Seriously Consider Donating Blood.” The fifth reason, supplied by the American Red Cross, was the most surprising to me. And, now that I know it, it is the number one reason I support blood donation:

“More than 1 million new people are diagnosed with cancer each year. Many of them will need blood, sometimes daily, during their chemotherapy treatment.”

In response to that post, I got a beautiful comment from Julie, who wrote:

Hi Debbie,

Thank you for donating blood! I received over 130 units of blood and many platelet transfusions as part of my treatment for acute myelogenous leukemia. It is so incredible to me that strangers donate a part of themselves to help someone who will most likely never have the chance to thank them.

I gave blood and platelets prior to my diagnosis, and you are so right…it feels wonderful to be able to give such an important gift. I recently starting having therapeutic phlebotomies because my iron is too high due to the transfusions. When I walked into the clinic, I got teary…now that I had experienced what it felt like to be on the receiving end of transfusions, the clinic took on a greater meaning to me.

Thank you for giving and for encouraging others. I always looked forward to my transfusions because they gave me energy, got rid of my anemia headaches and made the whole process of fighting cancer seem more doable.

Take care,

Because blood supplies are usually critically low in the winter months, January has been recognized as National Blood Donation Month for over 40 years. I’m a good example of the problem. About two weeks before Christmas, I got a call from the blood donation center at my cancer center. I’ve donated before, and they reached out because they needed me to donate again. I was just too busy before the holidays, however, and they promised to call back in January. First thing yesterday morning they were on the phone and we made an appointment for next week.

If you’re a cancer survivor, you might think you can’t give the gift of blood donation. I thought the same thing, but, in truth, eligibility depends on the type of cancer and treatment history. Speak to your doctor to learn more, but, in general, only survivors of blood cancers are not eligible to donate. For other types of cancer, you are eligible if you were successfully treated over 12 months ago and have experienced no recurrence in that time.  In-situ cancers that are completely removed do not require the 12 month waiting period.

Blood donation is a wonderful way to give back and help other cancer survivors get through their treatment. Next week, when I stick out my arm, I’ll be thinking of Julie and the 130 units of blood and platelets she needed as part of her treatment. Will you join me and make an appointment to donate blood this month? It’s easy, just contact your local hospital, cancer center or The American Red Cross today.

Survival > Existence,


Image courtesy of Howard Lake




nmajca's picture

Blood donation side effects

Donating blood is a noble thing to do, but it doesn’t come without side effects, which are usually downplayed. Nevertheless, I’ve had a pretty negative experience the first time I donated blood. Then I decided to learn more about possible side effects and write it all down for others to see. You can read more about it by clicking on my homepage above.


Debbie's picture

Sorry You Had a Negative Experience


I’m sorry you had a negative experience. It is certainly odd that you got a fever after donating, but it could have been entirely coincidential. According to Doctors Antonio Crocco and Domenico D’Elia in their article, “Adverse reactions during voluntary donation of blood and/or blood components. A statistical-epidemiological study” published in the July 2007 journal Blood Transfusion, only 1.2 percent of 5000 people who donate blood have side effects, and those effects are usually minor. Because the needle is sterile, there is no way to be infected during blood donation.

In their study, Doctors Crocco and D’Elia reported that “only four blood donors out of nearly 5,000 studied had side effects classified as severe. These four donors experienced reactions including vomiting, losing consciousness temporarily due to low oxygen levels to the brain and brief muscle spasms.” Another severe side effect is due to injuries sustained from fainting.

You can read more about the study at I’m glad you are willing to try again and I hope your next experience is positive.

Survival > Existence,


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