Jim, Donor

Jim is full of stories, and several of them have to do with giving blood. They all end well.  One of his favorite stories is about the mundane subject of cholesterol. It goes something like this:

Once upon a time, Jim gave blood. This wasn’t a rare occurrence for him. He’d been donating for years, ever since the 1970s when a friend’s son was diagnosed with hemophilia, and the friend had to find donors or pay for the blood his son needed. At that time, Jim told himself, “I can do this.” He has never stopped doing it.

But this once-upon-a-time donation turned out differently. He went into the donor center as a giver and came out a receiver – not of blood or just the usual reward of a donor pin or promotional coffee mug, but of better health.

It turns out that part of the donation process includes a report to the donor covering things like cholesterol level. Jim noticed that, over time, his had risen. He didn’t get excited at the first rise or the second. But when the third donation showed even more elevation, he decided to see his doctor.

The doctor confirmed high cholesterol, and Jim might have had to go on very expensive medication to lower his level. However, his physician wanted to check one more possibility: hypothyroidism. Over the long run, that test might have saved Jim’s life. One thing is certain, though, it saved him a lot of money. Instead of the high-priced cholesterol medication, the doctor prescribed a $4.00 generic drug to treat the hypothyroidism. Jim’s cholesterol dropped like a rock and has stayed down.

Jim’s story isn’t that unusual, but his blood is. He has what’s called “baby blood,” free of cytomegalovirus (CMV), which can be dangerous to children or adults with weakened immune systems. He’s also O-, a blood type in high demand even with CMV present. If blood were gold, Jim would be the mother lode. Over the years, he has given more than 100 units.

He takes his special status in stride, though. “I guess as a function of mass, I’ve donated more than four times the amount of blood I’ve got in me right now. It’s a small investment relative to the good you can do.” And, he adds, “I’m swimming in coffee mugs and pins.”

Please share your experience as a blood donor or transfusion recipient.