I barely noticed it at first until I started seeing red splotches on the cutting board. I put down the knife while looking at my upturned left hand. I saw blood gently oozing out of my palm and suddenly felt very faint. I stumbled into the living room muttering how I didn’t feel very good. They immediately sat me down, cleaned the cut, and put a bandage on. My brother worked at an urgent care clinic at the time so I knew I was in good hands.
After catching my breath I asked my brother what the damage was. He said it was one of the smallest cuts he had ever seen. I asked about all the blood that was spilled. He said the palm has a good blood supply so it bleeds a bit when you cut it. I asked him if I would ever recover. He told me to shut up and get back to the board game that I was losing.
I’ve never been very good at dealing with blood. I can deal with scrapes and bruises fine, but something about witnessing the red liquid exit my body sends my head into a spin. Whenever I need blood drawn at the doctors I look away and hold my breath until the whole ordeal is over.
My partner, on the other hand, doesn’t have this problem. She has O - negative blood, the universal donor, which means that her blood can be transfused onto anybody who needs it. She takes on this responsibility with gusto, and actively donates her blood a few times a year.
Next month the Red Cross is having a blood drive on September 22nd. It got me thinking about what exactly the history was with blood drives and what effect they really have on our society.
The concept of blood transfusion really began in the 17th century. In 1665, an English physician named Richard Lower performed one of the earliest recorded successful blood transfusions between animals. This milestone opened the door to the possibility of human-to-human blood transfers, though initial attempts were met with mixed results due to the limited understanding of blood compatibility.
It wasn't until the 19th century that advances in medical science, including the discovery of blood groups by Karl Landsteiner in the early 1900s, paved the way for safer and more effective blood transfusions. These discoveries laid the foundation for the establishment of blood banks and more organized blood collection efforts.
The devastating injury toll of World Wars I and II drove a critical need for accessible and ample blood supplies. The urgency of providing life-saving blood to wounded soldiers on the battlefield and civilians in need brought on the establishment of formalized blood donor programs. Organizations like the Red Cross played a pivotal role in mobilizing volunteers and collecting blood from communities, creating the blueprint for modern blood drives.
Dr. Charles Drew, an African American surgeon, made groundbreaking contributions to this field during World War II. He developed methods for processing and storing blood plasma, enabling blood to be preserved for longer periods and transported more efficiently. Drew's innovations were instrumental in establishing the first large-scale blood banks and facilitating the growth of blood donation initiatives.
Fast forward to today and the Red Cross reports that each year, an estimated 6.8 million people in the U.S. donate blood which results in 13.6 million units of whole blood and red blood cells collected. Each unit has the possibility of saving more than one life.
As we look to the future, it is essential to honor this legacy by continuing to support and participate in blood donation efforts. I’ll be overcoming my fear and signing up for my first blood donation. If it’s a possibility, I hope to see you there.