Blood-Donate the Gift of Life
I arrived at Lowery AFB in Denver Colorado in the fall of 1968. Being in the mile high city and having a view of the Rockies right through our barracks windows, we felt we had finally arrived as real soldiers with our basic training behind us; we were now were ready for the classes that would soon follow that would prepare us for our specialties. As newbies to the Air Force and residents to Denver and Lowery AFB, we were immediately introduced to Coors beer at the base bowling alley. Although I was never one to drink, I was told you must give it a try!
The beer cost only 50 cents in 1968 and needless to say even on an Airman E-1's pay, I did try it but never invested very much to enhance the Coors brewing company profits..After about three weeks of doing KP and other details given us to keep us busy prior to the start of our specialty school, we were told our flight of Inventory Management Specialists would have to attend classes from 6 PM until midnight. The Viet Nam War was going pretty strong and with the build up of the armed forces the number of classes had been increased and it became our lot to attend the evening classes.
We soon began school and in reality it wasn't all that bad. Each night after classes, we would eat midnight chow and go back to our barracks for details. Our details were very much like the ones we did in basic such as mopping and polishing floors. I never did see the point of being able to comb your hair or brush your teeth in those mirror shiny floors or ironing your fatigues with enough starch so that they would stand by themselves and the creases so sharp a paper cut would look like child's play but then that is the military for you. Before we were allowed to shower and go to bed, announcements for the next day would be given.
One night our "Rope" (group leader) informed us we would be getting up at 5 AM to go give blood. It was not an option and barring any medical reason, everyone was expected to give a unit of their blood. "My Lord!" I thought to myself, it is already almost 2 AM and we would have to get up almost before we fell asleep! The "Rope" explained,"A group of wounded are at the VA in Denver and there is a shortage of blood. This announcement changed my attitude and although I had never given blood, I looked forward to doing my part for my fellow soldiers who had bled on the Viet Nam soil.
The 5 AM call came all too soon but soon we were outside in the cool Denver air and the acrid smell coming from those coal fired furnaces that heated our barracks filled our nostrils as we marched almost a mile to the infirmary where we would donate our blood. We filled out the necessary forms, name, rank, and serial number and one by one we were invited to lie on a military gurney. An Air Force medic explained the process and soon the needle was inserted in my right arm.
My heart must have been clicking along pretty fast because giving my first unit of blood didn't take but only about 5 minutes. It didn't hurt and soon my needle was removed. I sat up on the gurney and hopped off. The medic grabbed my shoulder and said ,"Wait a minute, hot shot! You get a free ride and a cookie and some OJ, don't want you passing out." He soon had me sitting in a wheel chair and rolled me into the room where the cookies and OJ were. By then the shock had caught up to my body and I began to see stars, I thought I was about to faint but the feeling of faintness disipated.
I laid down on a cot provided and drank my juice and ate my cookies. Soon I was back to normal but we had to wait about an hour before being released to march back to our barracks. To be honest giving blood that first time seemed to energize me and I knew someone who needed blood would have my A+ flowing in their veins and it would help them to get better. Throughout my military years which lasted 4 years, I gave blood as often as a blood drive was held on the bases I served.
I was not aware blood could be sold. There are many people today who sell their own blood. Whether to support a habit or out of necessity for other indiscretions, it seems to me something that is in poor taste and selfish. Some of my fellow Airmen later went to Colorado Springs and sold a unit of their blood for $16 only to spend it in a discotheque or booze . These were men that lost my respect.`
Coming back to the civilian world I also was a blood donor. The factory where I worked for almost 30 years held a Red Cross blood drive every year. I continued to give blood until my retirement. My dad was also a blood donor even until his 70th birthday. I cannot give blood today because of the medications I take to control some of my health issues. With advances made in the way blood is donated, blood can be drawn and the platelets removed by centrifuge and returned to the donors body.
Before I had a shoulder replacement surgery, I donated my own blood to be transfused should I need it. I think this was precautionary because I didn't need to have any blood replaced after my surgery. Earlier that year, I had a bi-lateral knee replacement and required two units to be transfused. This was blood that had been donated by another.
Blood drives are still common and the need of blood by area hospitals are often made known. Earlier this year my family and I played music for a blood drive at one of the areas churches. The fellowship hall was used and the Red Cross set up and their quota of units of blood were soon realized. I laughed and told one of the medics, "I guess that good old bluegrass made for some happy blood donors. He only smiled but I could tell he was pleased to have something to divert attention from needles and possible boredom lying on the table. Giving blood is the gift of life and if I were able to still be a donor, I would roll up my sleeves in a heartbeat.