Living Resources staff Cathi Butryn was a first-time blood donor this past Friday. This is her powerful story:
Ineligible is a humiliating word. It reminds me of looking up at the amusement park sign that says, “You must be at least this tall to ride” and thinking, “All the other kids are big enough and cool enough to participate but I’m left behind.”
When I was in elementary school, my father was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. We often called on friends and family to participate in blood drives in his honor to compensate for his frequent need for blood transfusions. Being the youngest in the family, I took on the role of cheerleader, giving out stickers and cookies to those who participated, but I wasn’t allowed in the “room where it happened.” When I was old enough to participate, I had a variety of medical issues which made me ineligible. As time went on, I gave up trying, figuring it was a lost cause. That is until I heard about the Red Cross CEO Blood Battle.
In response to the most severe blood shortage in more than a decade, the American Red Cross of Eastern NY teamed up with CEOs from the Capital Region to “battle” the insufficiency. In this friendly competition, each agency sponsors one specific date by supplying volunteers to help run the drive and trying to encourage the greatest number of overall donors.
When Living Resources announced its participation in the Blood Battle, I decided to battle my own demons. I sat down with my doctor to review my past medical history and present state of health. She determined that I didn’t have any barriers to donation, so I immediately registered. As if to test my resolve, the Living Resources sponsor day happened to coincide with a huge snow and ice storm, but after 40 years of waiting, I had made up my mind. Once the weather abated and the plows made the roads passable, I took off for Albany.
The Red Cross employees are a hardy crew. They were ready to assist anyone who braved the storm to share their blood. I found them to be extremely upbeat and encouraging, even more so after they heard it my first time donating. Their masterful balance of joking and attentive care helped put my 50+ year-old nerves at ease. It wasn’t until they sat me up and asked me how I felt that a tear escaped and ran down my cheek. I felt overjoyed that I was finally able to donate, sad that I couldn’t donate until now, and validated that I am now, finally, a blood donor. Mostly, I felt the presence of my dad who passed away when I was 16. I whispered to his spirit, “This is for you!”
Only 37 percent of the population is eligible to donate, and less than ten percent of that group actually does. Won’t you give a pint to save a life?
The Blood Battle will continue for three more dates:
Friday, February 18
Friday, March 4
Friday, March 18
People can donate on behalf of any team they wish on any of the dates. Go to https://www.redcrossblood.org. In the top right box that says “Find a Blood Drive,” type “bloodbattle.” When you arrive and they ask which team you are supporting, tell them “Living Resources!”