I Bled for the Bird

So did the title of this posting convince you to read or was it the fact that it’s just me and you notice I had posted again? I know it has been a while and I have had some comments made by a few about how the really enjoy when I write and need to get back into it. So here I am. I was a little bit bored so I decided to write.

Now, why did I choose such a title? Because today I donated blood. It was my first time donating blood and I can’t wait to tell you about the whole experience. But to be able to enlighten and entertain you with the whole experience, I need to include the back story.

My younger son has been a hard worker when it comes to his participation in Boy Scouts. He made it a goal early on to earn his Eagle Scout rank. Well, he is now 13 1/2 years old and almost done with the requirements needed to receive that award. About four or five months ago we decided to get going on his Eagle service project so that it could be completed during the summer while he was out of school. We, mostly he, weren’t sure what to do as a project. His older brother did a great project that has come in very handy over the last 18 months…especially this week.

Well, in March our LDS Stake (local church group made up of multiple congregations) held a blood drive and one of the responsibilities I have in that Stake is to be the coordinator of all blood drives. I work closely with the local Red Cross office to make sure that the blood drives run smooth and that donors come participate.

Towards the end of that blood drive my wife came to see if she could donate. She brought the younger son with her because she had just picked him up from a merit badge pow wow. The representative from the Red Cross met him and found out he was looking for ideas on an Eagle project and she asked him (actually it was a suggestion but it was a strong suggestion) to do a blood drive as his project. Well, he thought about it for a little bit and decided to go ahead and do it.

That blood drive for an Eagle project was today. Hence, because I donated I bled for the bird. Now for the story about this adventure.

Having the responsibility to coordinate blood drives, I knew what he was in for and I was certain I would not let him fail…but I wasn’t going to do the work for him.  He was educated about what he would need to do, extra things that he could do, and what he absolutely should not do for this blood drive to be successful. In the area that we live, it seems that blood drives are frowned upon as Eagle service projects because the Red Cross already does so much work for the blood drive coordinator that it really isn’t a lot of work. Well, my contact at the Red Cross that we had to work with was well aware of the requirements for an Eagle project and was going to make sure he still did the work and leadership needed for this to be a successful blood drive.

Well, he worked for it. He has put in almost double the hours that my older son did with his project and the older son had a physical labor intensive project. You would think that the younger son’s project wouldn’t consist of much outside of getting people to sign up. Well, for starters, how many 13 year old kids do you know that would pick up a phone list of strangers and start calling them and asking them to donate blood at a blood drive he was hosting when they had no idea who he was? I don’t know of many. But long before he got to that point he was planning it out, meeting with those he needed to meet with, and taking the initiative that he needed.

He told me his goal was to get 75 pints of blood donated. Part of the reason for that goal is because the blood drive in March that I was in charge of only yielded 24 pints of blood. He wanted to beat me and beat me good with triple the output. Well, my Stake has a history of not being good donors (are you paying attention friends of the Orem Hillcrest Stake? we need to step it up) so the Red Cross representative set his goal at 44…because that was more realistic and almost double what we did in March. Well, his attitude was “no problem…we can do that”. We just needed to find a date that would be good and make the availability for donors even greater.

We were looking at dates. May was too soon. June was too busy. July could work if it was towards the end but then his summer camp got changed and the day that the Red Cross suggested was a local holiday. We didn’t think there would be a good turnout so we looked at August. Saturdays were the target days because fewer people would be working. The first two Saturdays wouldn’t work for us because of conflicts. The third Saturday was too busy for the Red Cross to have a crew available. The fourth Saturday had an Emergency Preparedness fair being put on by our Stake already scheduled (and that takes most of the day). And the fifth Saturday had a conflict for our family too. We didn’t want to go into September so that meant the fourth Saturday was best for us.

We thought about it and realized that doing the blood drive in conjunction with the fair would be beneficial. My son could have an information booth at the fair (something additional to help with the project) to help educated about the benefits of donating blood, plus he could possibly get some of the people attending to donate on the spot. So the wheels went in motion and he was on his way to planning the whole thing out.

Over the course of the next eight weeks, fliers were dispersed throughout the surrounding neighborhoods, posters were put up in the church buildings, emails were sent, requests were put on Facebook…all we were missing was a sky writer and a radio ad.

During that eight weeks, sign up sheets were sent to the various congregations in the Stake. The Red Cross also advertised this donor event on their own website and with postcards that they sent to people that they have on record as having donated before. At the beginning of this week we had nearly 65 people signed up. Even though it was short of his original goal of 75, it was still much higher than the goal of 44 that he was given…and he was hoping that there would be a lot of walk in donors from the fair.

This Eagle service project was experiencing the smoothest planning process that I had ever seen. We were going to have a large gymnasium-style room for the blood drive, we had plenty of people signed up, and we had hopes that many more would walk in. Then life happened.

During this week we had a few people let us know that they couldn’t donate because of health issues. Not a big worry, especially because other people were still signing up.

I guess that there were angels, or God himself watching over us because for the last little while I was having feelings that this would all work out but we would need to be open to changes and being flexible with those changes. And then I got a chat message from my friend.

Enter the need for flexibility.

The gym that we were going to use was already reserved for a wedding reception and the decorations were going up last night. Yeah, I should have confirmed that it was going to be okay. But it wasn’t. We only had a couple of options. First we could postpone. That actually wasn’t an option for our family (and would have been detrimental for another blood drive in our Stake this coming October) so that really left only one other option that could work for us: change the location.

We couldn’t change the physical location without losing the possibility of walk-in donors. Plus, we still had the booth at the fair that my son needed to oversee. He couldn’t do that if he physically was not there. So, we looked at different rooms in the same building. I am very familiar with that building and knew that we had a couple of options. I still had the feelings that it would all work out.

I called our representative at the Red Cross and let her know. She called the employee who was supervising the drive to let him know about it and he wasn’t worried at all. If he wasn’t going to be, I certainly wasn’t going to be.

We arrived this morning bright and early and ready to go. The supervisor arrived, looked at what room options we had and made the decision. We went with the biggest of the rooms available and made use of some foyers on each side of the room. Unfortunately with the room being smaller than the gym they weren’t going to be able to have as many stations. The supervisor said we would just cut down the goal and probably wouldn’t be able to have any walk-in donors. I was still optimistic we could.

So how did it turn out? When the day started there were 63 people signed up. We were so busy, we had to turn away 10 walk-in donors. 6 people signed in but left before donating because they couldn’t wait any longer. Then there were 6 more that couldn’t donate because of high blood pressure, low iron, etc. There were also 3 people that for some reason weren’t able to finish their draw so they couldn’t be counted as full units. That is potentially 25 units that could have been donated.

We also had about 15 (I haven’t looked at the official count yet) people that had signed up but never showed up for their appointment. So now we are at a potential 40 units that wouldn’t be donated. His goal of 75 was really looking lofty now.

Well, after 5 hours of holding the blood drive, he ended up with 45 units (UPDATE: 50 units…45 people but five of them did double red blood cell donations which count for two units each). One more than the goal that the Red Cross had given him. Almost double what I was able to get back in March. And if situations had been better (mainly, had we been able to be in the gym with more stations and less of a wait), he may just have hit his own personal goal of 75. Kind of a moral victory if you think about it. Something he couldn’t control contributed to not achieving his goal. Yet he still surpassed the goal the Red Cross had…so he was still successful. BIG VICTORY!!!

Here is what amazes me about this whole experience. First of all, the calming reassurance that all would be well. If you don’t believe in God and the comfort and guidance He can give through the Holy Ghost, let me tell you that I believe because it has happened with me and I believe in Him. Second, I was humbled at the support that he got for his Eagle project. Let me expound on this (as if this posting wasn’t already long enough):

One of the people that signed up to donate had a younger brother playing in a football game today. He had decided last night that he wasn’t going to donate blood and instead go to the game. Then my son called to remind him of his scheduled donation time. He being an Eagle scout himself decided that he couldn’t leave my son hanging. He came and donated and went to his brothers game after…even though he was going to be late.

Three people that I am aware of (myself included) had never donated before but were willing to do it to support him in his project. I know that donating blood can be a bit of a scary experience. I used to be scared of it…then I had other reasons why I couldn’t donate so I didn’t have to fear it anymore.

By the way, statistically speaking, women donate lots more than men…at least in this area of Utah. Men, get your man-card stamped and donate some blood.

One of the first-time donors doesn’t like needles or seeing her own blood. She was scared/nervous/anxious etc. and wasn’t sure what she was doing. But she really likes and admires my son and wanted to do this for him. If it had been a normal blood drive…she would have stayed away. But for him she was there. I was proud of her. I was humbled by her. Would I have done it had it not been my son…even if it was someone I liked and admired? Probably not. But she did. Way to go.

For me, it was actually a good experience. I haven’t donated before for three reasons. Early on I was too afraid. Later on, after having to have a lot of blood draws for tests, I knew that my veins collapse easily. Most recently what has kept me from donating is the fact that my blood pressure has been a little too high (that is what kept me from donating in March and I know that I have been under a lot of stress over the last year because of a lot of things going on in my life). But it was my son. My wife couldn’t donate because her iron was too low. My oldest child couldn’t donate because she was out of town. My older son couldn’t because he was scared…I mean he was planning to play paintball with his cousins (still trying to punch the man-card). I wanted someone in our family to be able to do it, especially because the third first-time donor that I was aware of is his aunt (my sister) and she was doing it to support him.

When I sat in the chair they were having a little bit of a difficult time finding a vein. Then they found one. Then I became a human pin cushion. One poke. And she missed the vein. So she pushed it further and wasn’t getting it in. She moved the needle around and got it…then it collapsed. Guess what…I had to switch arms.

I had chosen my left arm first because I am right handed and didn’t want the bandage and bruise to be in the way of my movement. Oh well, I had to use the right arm anyway. Finding the vein was no problem. Getting the needle in was super easy. Bleeding into the bad was great. I was done in what seemed like 3 minutes (it was actually 5min 12sec). I wasn’t light headed at all and was glad for that because I still had to do some work, including cleaning up when it was done. I never felt sick and all was good.

So will I donate again? You bet. The next day that I am eligible to donate is October 17th. Guess what? I am supervising another Stake Blood Drive on October 17th. Donating wasn’t a big deal so I will do it again…not just to make my own blood drive successful, but also to help someone in need.

Each of us has something in us that holds us up from performing some kind of act. However, all of us can find motivation to do just that act if it matters enough to us. In the case of today’s blood drive, the motivation for one guy that donated started when 9-11 happened and there was such a need for blood donations. For others it was because of an Eagle service project. And for some, it was because of my son.

What would be your motivation? I hope that after reading 2700 words you can find what that would be. Now go do something that will benefit someone else…even if you are nervous to do it. You, the benefactor, and the world in general will be better off.

Just another view from a Palmtree.

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#TBT Memories of Missionaries

Today is Thursday, and on Social Media people tend to say it is Throw Back Thursday. So that is what this post is all about today…throwing it back to the past, with a little bit of the present.

So why would I make a whole blog posting about it when most people just post pictures? All because of a birthday party I went to last night and the reminiscent memories that came back to me regarding a period in my life that happened 20+ years ago.

So let me start with a picture from the past:

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This is me almost 21 years ago. I was working as a teacher at the Missionary Training Center (MTC) of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The couple that are in the picture with me are the Daytons, and I was assigned to teach them how to speak Portuguese. Brother Dayton is a retired medical doctor and he and his wife were called to go help take care of the medical needs of other missionaries serving in Brazil.

Yesterday was Brother Dayton’s birthday. He turned 91. The Daytons are living in an assisted living facility that my mom volunteers at, and she let me know that they were having a birthday party for Brother Dayton. My wife, youngest daughter, and I decided to go and show support. I hadn’t seen the Daytons for a couple of years, and I have only seen them probably a handful of times since I taught them at the MTC. Here is a picture from last night:

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Quite a bit of aging there in the photo…to the guy in the blue jacket. A few extra pounds too. But that is beside the point. When the first picture was taken my wife was pregnant with our first child. That child is currently serving as a missionary and will be returning home in July (more posts to come, I’m sure). That is a hard realization of how many years have gone by.

Anyway, I went home from that birthday party and pulled out a memory book I made of my time as a teacher at the MTC so that I could show my daughter the first picture in this post. Then I took a walk down memory lane.

The Daytons were the only couple I taught, but I also taught 103 single missionaries; 88 Elders and 15 Sisters. Some of those I remained in contact with for the first little while of their missions in Brazil and Portugal. Some I lost complete contact with. Others I have maintained contact with as friends through Facebook. Some are just now getting friend requests from me (I hope they still remember me and don’t just accept my request because I went to BYU or because we have a mutual friend so they figure they must know me somehow).

Being a teacher at the MTC was one of the best experiences of my life. I learned a lot. I never felt like I was as good of a missionary as I should have been, so being a teacher to new missionaries was first, a blessing, and second a chance to make up for being a slacker. I learned from all 105 missionaries I directly taught. They all contributed to my life at that time and it was great. I became a better person for it.

As I was taking my stroll down memory lane, I not only looked at photographs, but I also read letters and notes that many of them wrote to me. It was great to read of the experiences that I told them they would have, and to see how much they were really enjoying what they were doing. Just about all of them told me how much of a positive impact I had in their lives…whether helping them to feel the love that God has for them, or understanding how to speak Portuguese better, or just knowing what they would need to know to survive in a new country/culture/language/etc. What they didn’t know is that it was therapy for me. It was a form of redemption.

We helped each other. We became better because of each other. Part of us all can be attributed to each other. Even those that were in the last group that I taught may not realize it but I was better for them because of all of the groups of missionaries that came before them.

So to those of you former missionaries that I taught who are already connected with me somehow and are reading this (especially if you didn’t quite remember me when you accepted my friend request), I want to say thank you. You helped make me what I am because of what we shared. I may have only worked directly with you for two months (or maybe less) but I learned something from each of you. I count you all as friends, even though we may not stay in contact.

I have seen what has become of a few of these former missionaries already. None of them are that much younger than me so it isn’t surprising that they are married, have families, have successful careers, and are moving on with life. All of this will help me as my own daughter returns home in three months, only to leave again two months later to go to college. Then some day she will be married and have her own family and career. Others will say that she was a big part of their lives too while she was a missionary. That is because friends influence others…hopefully for good.

I hope that when my mortal life comes to an end (many, many, many years from now) that people will be able to say of me that I was a good influence on them. 105 missionaries were to me. I got to celebrate with two of them last night. Another good memory in my path of life.