A small act that means a lot

JUST BE - Bernadette Sembrano - The Philippine Star

Blood donation: It’s no big thing — really. It does not take much effort. It takes so little of your time. It won’t cost you anything except maybe your transportation allowance.

I’ve been donating blood for more than a decade now, and so when I was invited to be a speaker by the Philippine Blood Coordinating Council, I did not hesitate.

Below are excerpts from the speech I delivered when the Philippine Blood Coordinating Council invited me to be their guest: 

Blood donation is close to my heart. I was too young to remember the blood transfusion I had when I was still a baby, but obviously I’m here because it saved my life.

I’ve been a blood donor myself for more than a decade now. A friend asked me to give blood to the mom of a friend who was about to undergo a major operation. Sad to say, the patient did not make it. But ever since, I’ve been giving blood.

The first time was in Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City. The other times — I can’t exactly remember anymore, but one was in East Ave Medical Center because we had a patient there for Lingkod Kapamilya. Another time, I gatecrashed on a school’s bloodletting drive because my favorite “bleeder” from Red Cross was there. My last blood donation was just two months ago in Bicol during the bloodletting drive of DZMM’s “dugong alay, dugtong buhay” activity.

The usual “volunteers” were there — soldiers from the Armed Forces of the Philippines and students. But remarkably, there were plenty of walk-in donors who just went to the venue when they heard the announcement. Bicol has plenty of supply in the blood bank that they give to other provinces that need blood. The culture of bayanihan of Bicolanos is apparent, not only during calamities, but also in blood donation. I was very impressed.

The Department of Health, advocates and media are there to raise awareness on the importance of blood donation — not only when there’s dengue, but at all times. Blood donation takes leadership and community effort to make it more accessible, efficient and safe.

What I especially like about giving blood is you give a part of yourself — to a loved one or a friend in need. You help save a life without having to give your life. We are a living donor. 

When we give blood, we become part of another person’s suffering and ordeal, and we are one with them in hope.

What makes regular blood donation more special is we give ourselves to strangers. People we never met and people who may never have the chance to even thank us, not even give a grateful gaze.

To me, that is the essence of giving — anonymity.

Oftentimes, we give because we feel like it because we are moved to give and because we feel someone deserves to be helped.

But when we donate in a blood bank, we give even though we do not know who the recipient will be — whether the patient is a mother who had just given birth, a teenager who figured in a motorcycle accident, or perhaps a thief shot by the police. We help anyone, free from our own biases and preference.

I see blood donation as a duty to one another, but Dr. Tomas Maramba, founder of the Philippine Blood Coordinating Council, has an added take on voluntary donation — that’s safety and quality of the blood transfusion.

He says that blood donation should be voluntary to ensure that donors give honest answers regarding their medical history and disclose if they were ever involved in risky behavior. I agree with him.

After a decade of giving blood, I don’t know if it’s even right to simply call it a habit. I’ve never kept track but I donate whenever there’s an opportunity. I’ve done it many times that it’s no big deal to me anymore. It is quite simple.

However, to someone else, it is a matter of life and death. Just do it. Just donate.

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