12 Gallons

I made a whole blood donation again at the Lowery Bonfils location last week.  As I left, the lady at the front desk gave me my 15 gallon lapel pin.  Boy, did I ever feel dizzy after that donation!  (And, if you don’t know I’m shining you on, do I ever have a bridge in Brooklyn you’re going to like.)

Fifteen gallons.  Eight pints a gallon.  That’s 120 donations.  And, since they don’t allow whole blood donations more frequently that every two months, that’s at least 20 years.  And, in reality, a good deal more than that since I missed my every other month blood letting, for one reason or another, on a fairly routine basis.

I can actually be a good deal more precise about how long it took me to get that 12 gallon pin because I didn’t start donating on a regular basis until I met a woman in the D.U. law library named Barbara Euser in about 1977.  That’s 40 years ago.

Thanks to the wonders of Facebook, I know that she now calls Greece home and that she is a very active in group devoted to protecting a body of water named Vatika Bay.  And the oceans in general.  And, at least judging by her Facebook “likes,” it is safe to say that we have diverged philosophically nearly as far as we have diverged geographically.

To help pay for law school, Barbara worked behind the check out counter in the library.  For some reason, she told me that she occasionally donated blood a few blocks away at the old Denver General Hospital.  That, along with her extensive mountaineering experience, impressed me.  And, not wanting to be shown up by a woman, I was a push over for opening my veins; I was filling out the requisite paperwork at the Denver General Blood Bank before the week was out.

The form in those early years was innocent, simple and fit on a 3×5 inch index card:  name, address, weight, when did you last donate, do you feel well today?

It wasn’t long, however, before the questionnaire grew into a multiple page, legal size form. And took an ominous turn, asking questions about, what at the time, seemed to me astonishingly intimate details of the potential donor’s life:  sex with other men.

The AIDS epidemic had arrived in Denver, my home town, a place that I still regarded with a sort of willful naiveté.

The form continues to morph and metastasize; the latest questions are about the zika virus.  Now, on a hand held electronic tablet, it takes me at least 10 minutes to power through all the questions, even though I have been through them . . . . how many times?  And, rather than a donation room about the size of a walk-in closet off the main lobby at the old Denver General, Bonfils now operates out of its own, multi-story, state of the art facility at Lowery.

Yes, I still look away when the phlebotomist tells me the needle is about to go in.  But when they say “Slight poke,” I have never had reason to take issue with their prediction.

Bonfils latest branding slogan is, “You’re just our type.  Be a hero today.”  Well, hero may, in my estimation, be a bit of a stretch.  But there’s no doubt that someone, somewhere needs your blood.  So, if donating will make you feel like a hero, please be my guest.




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