Apr 19, 2013

The bloody red thing

Hi folks, this post is about my personal experiences with a bloody red thing. It is the fluid of life... but, not water. It is that magic potion which helps us to breathe... but, not oxygen. It treats each and every one of us equally regardless of our religion, race, class, caste, sex, belief or IPL team prefrences. The world has produced hundreds and thousands of scientists and millions of new inventions have been made. There are artificial kidneys, artificial lungs, artificial legs and there is even a substitute for Mother’s milk. But till date this red bloody thing has no worthy substitute.

My very first experience with this thing is the curious doubt I had when I learnt how to spell it in elementary school. My teacher wrote this word on the black board – B .. L.. O.. O.. D – and asked us all to pronounce it as ‘blood’. I was confused. With my English knowledge, I could only justify pronouncing B L O O D as ‘blued’ but it is not even blue to be named that. Of course, the bloody red thing I am talking about all this while is the blood itself and this post intends to tell how B.. L.. O.. O.. D can spell L.. I.. F.. E  to many in the world today through a process that is spelt D.. O.. N.. A.. T.. I.. O.. N!

During my childhood, I understood blood mostly as a nasty and dangerous fluid that runs down my nose when some stronger brat hits me in school. And I trained my reflexes to run immediately to the teacher shouting “Miss.. Blood is coming!” Basically I understood it as an important fluid which I can’t afford to lose in big quantity.

A stark realization of blood came to me when I was 16 and an unfortunate accident happened to my maternal grandmother. She slipped and fell down one day at home and her weak bones had collapsed instantly. We rushed her to the hospital and they said a surgery had to be done to implant a steel rod in her thighs to save her. She had lost a lot of blood with the fall and with the surgery  getting ready, the doctors quickly wanted to know if anyone in the family had the same group of blood. Call it a real bad fortune. There were only two people in that room in my family who shared the same blood group – my mother and me! My mother could not donate since she is a diabetic and even if I was more than willing, I could not donate too since I was not legally permitted to donate then. I was 16.

The doctors gave us 3 hours to arrange for the required blood and gave us some phone numbers to help. This was a time when there was no internet, no social media and even cell phones were a luxury. My uncle & I searched frantically for blood that day and eventually we found it through a blood bank. The surgery went on well and the steel rod safely went into my grandmother’s thighs. At the same time, the importance of this bloody red thing went firmly into my mind too. I took an oath to become a blood donor right from my 18th birthday!

Two years passed. Pat.. came my 18th birthday – a very special day that empowers one to do many things legally – work, drive, vote.. I will stop with that, you know this list :-) But to me it empowered me to put a needle in my veins and take out some of my blood to give to a man or woman in need. The intentions were fine. But where do I do the action? I was in a college hostel at that time and I searched through telephone directories and called up the Red Cross and told them I want to donate blood. It was actually awkward and I could have sounded silly like the bespectacled guy in that famous movie who asks ‘What is the procedure to change the room?’

What is the procedure to donate my blood!?

I went along with it and finally found a blood bank near my college where I can go and donate my blood. The medical officer there was very amused that a young boy had come voluntarily to donate blood without any prompting on his 18th birthday. It should have been a rare case in her history!

I was very curious about how they were going to take the blood from me. Since it was the first time I was slightly nervous too. A nurse came in, checked my blood pressure ... made me lie flat on a bed and inserted a needle into my veins. She mentioned that my veins were very easy to find unlike most people. I had a sponge ball in my arm which I was asked to keep pressing continuously. I felt the prick of the needle and then I could feel the blood moving out of my body. I wanted to see it getting filled in the bottle but I was scared to ask the nurse. She was asking trivial questions about my native, interests etc. while this was all happening. After about 20 minutes, she said it is all done and asked me to get up. She took the needle out, put a band-aid on the elbow and expressed a note of acknowledgement that my blood clotted quickly too.

Out of curiosity I asked her how much blood they took from me. She smiled and explained to me that it would approximately be 250-300 ml. 300 ml! That is what I told my mother with a lot of pride that night on phone. Against my expectations, she went livid immediately and started scolding me. 300 ml! Strangely she could not digest that they sucked a whole Pepsi bottle’s worth of blood from my body. A pepsi bottle! As it happens, the last time I donated blood, I noticed they too 450 ml of whole blood from my body. They have moved on to a half-litre Pepsi bottle now it seems :-)

Abey, been thinking about donating blood for long? Do it ABHI!

Funny how mothers imagine things. Like most mothers would, my mother never accepted that I am strong enough to donate blood and she still scolds me whenever I donate blood. And it remains one of my petty pleasures till date to tease her each time after I donate blood.

Word spread in my hostel that I voluntarily donated my blood and suddenly many of my friends wanted to become donors too. The intention was there in most people but they simply did not know the ‘where’ and the ‘how’! I guided them all to the same blood bank and before I realized, I had inspired about 20 odd people in the college to become donors.

Since then I donate blood around my birthday every year and also when in need. Today the blood search has become a lot easier with the role of mobile phones and social media. I am 25 now and I have donated blood nine times till now. And each experience has been very memorable to me.

I once donated to the heart surgery of a patient who had flown in from Iraq to Chennai for treatment. Without any passports or visas, my blood went abroad before I could! Quite a few times, I have met the families and close relatives of patients to whom I donated and in all those faces, I see my own plight during my grandmother’s surgery every time. Blood donation has definitely been a very satisfying soul search attempt for me and I am sure it would be the same for any donor.

Contrary to many myths, the need for blood is very prevalent in our nation and any drop of blood of any group donated by anyone can definitely play a role in saving a life. Medicinal technology has advanced so much even in this span of 7 odd years since I started blood donation and they have made the process as easy as possible. They have better needles with lesser pricking sensation now, they have better fancy beds for blood donation now, sterilization, separation and storage processes have improved a lot now and in fact, each time we donate blood, it is separated into RBCs, platelets and plasma and stored separately to help the need of three different people. All it takes is one willing effort to become a blood donor to experience this pride, this satisfaction and above all, it is just a prick and is so easy for a person of normal health! There are sufficient information online about the eligibility, process and guidelines for blood donation.

People getting treated for cancer, people giving birth to babies, people injured in accidents, people undergoing surgery for any random reason – there are millions of people out there requiring a match-type blood right now and this is a true case where little drops can make an ocean! I would be delighted if reading this post can move at least one person to be a first-time blood donor. Personally, I aim at donating blood 50 times in my life and I am 41 short of the target still. In that context for the already experienced donors, this post shall best serve as a wake up call for another  round of donation.

Blood donation is a noble cause. So don’t be O negative about it and B positive about it. You can save a life! Just open your eyes and browse for blood requirements. You will find one person whom you can help. TODAY. 



  1. it s really a good thing n everyone's life :-) still i don ve d eligibility 2 donate my blood due my wgt...i m tryin 2 increase it... surely tis article make me a blood donor...

  2. Wonderful and truly inspiring article GS !!! Congrats for completing your CC !!!!