Sometimes sitting and waiting can give you a whole new perspective on things.

I’d made my regular appointment with the Red Cross for 1 p.m., yet there I was at 30 minutes after the hour, still sitting in the waiting room. I admit, for a moment, I got a little impatient. After all, I had a zillion things to do that day. Then, it occurred to me that the holdup — not something I usually encounter when I have an appointment at the Beckley donation center — was actually a good thing. They were busy!

It was near Christmas, so I suppose the generosity bug had bitten a few extra people that week. Thank goodness. The need for all types of blood is tremendous. Every two seconds someone in America needs blood, yet, according to the Red Cross, only 5 percent of the population donates. So many more are eligible.

In the Appalachian region alone, patients use approximately 300 units of blood every day. Some goes to victims of vehicle accidents or other emergency situations. Other blood may go to surgical patients, those with leukemia, sickle cell anemia, aplastic anemia, cancer, and premature babies.

In fact, chances are, the Red Cross says, you may need someone else’s blood some day, too. Ninety-five percent of Americans will receive blood by age 72.

In addition to helping people, giving blood may also help you uncover a personal health condition of which you may not be aware. Not too long ago I showed up for my regular donation appointment and was shocked when they told me I couldn’t donate. A simple finger prick had revealed I didn’t have enough iron in my blood. The news prompted me to call my physician, who suggested I may need an iron supplement. I followed her advice, and, next visit to the Red Cross, things were back to normal. I felt better, too.

Another family member learned of his high blood pressure condition during a routine blood donation appointment. He was not able to donate, but the visit resulted in him scheduling a long overdue checkup with his doctor.

Both of those conditions were revealed during a simple pre-donation mini-physical. When you donate, your blood is tested for a number of conditions, including HIV, AIDS, hepatitis C and B, syphilis, human T-cell lymphotropic virus and West Nile virus. You should not use the donation process, however, as a means for personal testing.

The entire process takes roughly an hour, but the actual donation takes only 10 minutes or so. It doesn’t hurt. And, if you’re squeamish, there is no need to watch the needle enter your vein or the bag fill with a pint of your blood. Watch TV, meet a new friend, or just lie back, relax, and know you’re saving lives. Then enjoy free juice and cookies, and take advantage of your excuse to avoid heavy lifting the rest of the day!

Next time I give blood, I sincerely hope I have to sit and wait a few extra minutes if it means more people are willing to give. My worry is, though, that with Christmas season behind us, giving will no longer be a priority for many who are eligible to donate. My wish is that you’ll make sharing the gift of life a priority throughout this new year.

For more information, visit www.redcross.org.

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