Sunday, June 14, 2015

Sunday Bloody Sunday

Today is World Blood Donor Day, sponsored by the World Health Organization. The theme of this year's campaign is "Thank you for saving my life." It focuses on thanking blood donors who save lives through blood donations and encouraging more people to give blood. It's a worthy cause. Just one pint of blood can potentially save the life of three people. About every two seconds someone, somewhere, needs blood. And you can give blood more than once, you know. There are folks who donate as often as they can and have done so hundreds of times.

I take a medicine called warfarin. It's also known commercially as Coumadin or Jantovin. Many folks refer to it as a "blood thinner," but it doesn't really affect the viscosity or how thick your blood is. Warfarin affects the clotting properties of your blood. The more of it you have in your body, the longer it takes for your blood to clot. The main reason it's administered is to reduce the chances of a stroke due to a blood clot blocking a vessel to your brain or other vital organ. All medicines seem to have a negative side effect. The obvious one for this medicine is that if you have too much of it in your system you can bleed to death from a minor injury that normal people wouldn't even put a bandage on. They also use this stuff in rat poison. It makes the rats bleed to death internally when they eat enough of it. Because I have it running through my veins, I can't donate blood.

I also have to get my blood tested every four weeks just to make sure my blood still clots enough that I'm not going to bleed excessively if I cut myself somehow. Getting poked with a needle every four weeks isn't a whole lot of fun. I can think of much better ways to spend an afternoon, but I do it because I don't want to die the next time I decide to shave.

A person who specializes in taking blood samples is called a phlebotomist, or a phlebotomy technician. I like that word - phlebotomy. It's unusual and doesn't come up in conversation very often. Phlebotomy. Phlebotomy. Phlebotomy.

I'm what some phlebotomy technicians call a "hard stick." Although I will grant that the clinic where I routinely get my blood drawn almost always gets blood on the first try, that's not the case just about everywhere else. Other folks generally stick me at least two or three times, sometimes more. A few places have a policy that they will only try three times and after the second try they'll call in their best expert to do the job. I hate it when they go for the hand...that hurts unbelievably. I've been told my veins roll, that they collapse, or they just "blow out." I tried to donate blood a few times back when I was a younger man and not on these medicines. After a few tries, one of the ladies taking the blood told me "Don't come back. We don't need your blood that badly."

Some interesting facts about blood I looked up: The average person has a little over a gallon of blood running through their veins but a newborn baby only has about a cup. It's not recommended, but you can loose about 40 percent of your blood and probably still survive if there aren't other mitigating circumstances. A heart pumps over 82 billion gallons of blood in the average lifetime. If you're a normal person, you have about 100,000 miles of blood vessels in your body. The time it takes for a single blood cell to leave the heart and travel through your body back to the heart is only about 30 seconds. It would take about 1.2 million mosquito bites to completely drain your body of blood...although I've seen some pretty big mosquitoes in my lifetime that might tend to make that number somewhat lower.

In church we often talk about the blood of Jesus. We sing about being "washed in the blood" and how his blood cleanses us of sin. The concept is that God commanded animal sacrifices in the Old Testament to defer his punishment for the various sins that men committed. Animal blood took the place of human blood. Jesus changed everything. He gave his own blood, his life, as a permanent sacrifice for the sins of man. I guess you could call him the ultimate blood donor.

If that's the case, if Jesus made the final sacrifice, why should we worry about sin or eternal life in hell? The catch is the sacrifice is only good if you believe it. There are specific requirements to be included in the class action. Of course you need to hear about the sacrifice, what Jesus did, the details of the pain and suffering he went through. As I said before, you also need to believe the story is true. You need to accept that the idea that sin exists and that you, and everyone on earth, is guilty of sinning against God. Finally, you need to personally accept the sacrifice Jesus made, confess that you believe he is the true Son of God, and be baptized as a symbolic cleansing of your sins by the washing of his blood. The theme for World Blood Day is "Thank you for saving my life." In the case of Jesus, it's "Thank you for saving not just my life, but my very soul."

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