Give blood, give life

First-time blood donors at American Family Insurance.One blood donation can help save the lives of up to three people.

I’m not sure I understood this when I started giving blood. I was only 17 years old, so I needed a parent’s permission. I was living in a small town, where giving back was something that was just expected.

I continued donating through college. And when I started working at American Family’s National Headquarters (NHQ) in Madison, Wis., 30 years ago, I was thrilled to find out employees were given two hours every two months to travel to the American Red Cross across town to give blood. It was encouraged. We had a blood coordinator here who would call you when you were due for the next donation and sign you up for a time.

At that time, there was a friendly competition between businesses and organizations in Dane County, Wis. The One-a-Week Club (established in 1968), tracked which businesses had the most blood donors per year. Giving blood was really a social event, with co-workers carpooling to the donation center.

But most important, there was a huge need to be filled and many lives to be saved through the gift of blood donation, and American Family recognized this need and supported employees answering the call.

And for the most part, all this hasn’t changed.

There is still a One-a-Week Club. (In fact, American Family has won this award from 2003 through 2010.) And in some situations, our employees are still provided time to give blood.

Regular blood drives are held at NHQ and East Region buildings in Madison, plus our St. Joseph, Mo. office. We still get emails about upcoming blood drives, but we no longer need to carpool. The downside to this is the social interaction of co-workers donating with each other and veteran donors encouraging new donors seems to have waned a little through the years.

So about a year ago, a group of regular blood donors (see photo above), including myself, decided it was time to resurrect that social aspect. Me, as the experienced donor, and five new donors all secured our donation times through the American Red Cross online appointment system. We booked the same time slots so we could support each other through the process. This system works nationally, so you can use it to find a blood drive near you no matter where you’re located.

As it turned out, in this case only half of us were able to give. This can happen for a number of reasons – all to make certain donors and recipients are safe and protected.

One potential donor didn’t meet the hematocrit level (amount of iron in your blood) which is the No. 1 reason individuals are deferred from giving blood. One had traveled to a country on the ineligible list. And one had an upcoming medical procedure scheduled.  All of them have vowed to try again.

I can guarantee you will feel so good when you’re done donating, knowing you’re helping others, and maybe even saving a life. There is no cost except your time. Want to find out more?

Not everyone is able to give blood or chooses to, and that’s fine. But for those of you who have been contemplating it or just need a little extra boost, I encourage you to make 2013 the year you give it a try.

Editor's note: Feb. 14 is National Donor Day, aimed at raising awareness and encouraging blood, marrow, organ, and tissue donations. 

by Dorene Disch on Thu, Feb 14 2013 9:16 am
Posted in Volunteering
Posted by Dorene Disch on Thu, Feb 14 2013 9:16 amDorene Disch is a customer experience consultant with American Family Insurance.


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