I used to be a regular blood donor.

By used to, I mean I hit the 20-gallon donation plateau, and donated regularly for years via apheresis. Apheresis is the process by which your blood is removed, spun through a centrifuge, and separated into its component parts. Because of this, a single donation can help as many as four people instead of just one. Apheresis is a more time-consuming process than regular blood donation, so fewer people are willing to do it. Plus, you have needles in both arms — one of the draw side, and the other the return side. After the most useful components are removed, the red blood cells are returned to the donor’s body. One side effect of this is that apheresis donors can donate much more often than every eight weeks. I used to go every month when I was donating regularly, though I could have gone more frequently.

I got involved because one of the local members of the science fiction community, Richard S. Russell, used to organize regular blood donation days among the sci-fi fans in town, and while he did so he got a decent response. This was a classic bit of philanthropy organized by old-time sci-fi fans, possibly started by, among others, Robert Heinlein at science fiction conventions. Richard has long since abandoned this effort for whatever reason, but I kept at it on my own for quite a while.

Why did I stop? The main reason was that scar tissue began to build up in my left arm – my “return” arm. Once they puncture you with a needle, the clock is ticking. If they can’t tap a good vein for both needles, they usually have to give up, and the donor is thanked but rejected for that visit, and asked to come back another time. Because of this scar tissue, the veins in my left arm were tough, and it was challenging to get a good puncture. Odd that I didn’t have similar scar tissue in both arms, but that was what they told me. After three times in a row of being rejected this way, I gave up. It was too depressing a waste of my time, and I’d become somewhat infamous among the Red Cross nurses there; none would make eye contact with me when they saw me coming. I presume this was because no one wanted the bad mark on their records of having to reject an otherwise willing, healthy donor. I was also discouraged from donating regular blood. My blood type is A-positive, and it’s the second most common blood type. As such, there seems to be no shortage of A+ blood, so taking in more than needed would be a waste. That was ten years ago.

I’ve considered going back, but there’s another concern I have: it’s the outright rejection of anyone who is gay, particularly gay men, as donors. It’s not something the Red Cross likes to talk about, but it’s a holdover from Reagan-era paranoia, and despite it not being a significant risk factor any longer, gay men are still, as far as I know, rejected as blood donors. I’m not ruling out ever donating blood again, but at this point I’ve donated my entire body’s worth of blood twice over; I’ve done my part. I’m also nearing the age when I am no longer eligible to donate blood, so I may be out of participating anyway.

I signed up as an organ donor when I renewed my driver’s license. I’ve been on the organ donor list for more than a decade by now. It makes sense, in the event of my untimely death, to offer any functional organs to other people who need them: being dead, I surely will not. Besides registering for this, it’s important to let your partner or family know that these are your wishes, as well as including mention of it in your will. Sometimes families refuse to honor the deceased’s wishes regarding organ donation, usually on religious grounds, so that may be a thing to keep in mind.

There’s another thing you can do with your dead body: you can donate it to medical science. Doctors need practice too, and what better way to familiarize themselves with the workings of the human body than to cut one open and look around, but with no risk of injury to the subject? I had thought that, because I was an organ donor, I would be ineligible for this, but it turns out you can do both. I’m researching information on this so I can sign up for it as well as soon as possible.

Medical science has advanced dramatically, even just in the last decade or so, but we aren’t yet at the point where we can grow new organs quickly and reliably. That day is coming, but until it arrives I’ll still be here as a potential donor.


A couple of quick notes: Two D&D adventures I’ve written will be played through live on Twitch this week. The first, Desert of Lost Relics, is part four in a series and is being played through starting on Wednesday September 18 at 7 PM Central Time by a group called 307RPG. Their Twitch stream can be found here:

Another group–Roll the Role–will be playing through my one-shot adventure Consumed on Sunday September 22 at Noon Central Time. Here’s the link to their stream:

I’m looking forward to watching both of these, if only to see how a different group and DM handle these adventures. I encourage you to tune in and watch the fun unfold!

One final note: I’ll be attending the Chicago Steampunk Expo September 26-29 – that’s right, over my birthday weekend – at the Westin O’Hare in Rosemont, IL. Here’s the link to their web site:

2 thoughts on “Blood

  1. There is even ANOTHER thing you can do with your remains ; donate to Canine Search & Rescue for cadaver dog training. There aren’t as many of them as “regular” SAR dogs, but they are frequently needed. It is a challenge for trainers to get human body parts and blood to train with.

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