Image: “Save Life, Give Blood” motto between two connected hearts, one giving blood to the other. (Art by Novena Barberic via Shutterstock.)

In all the turmoil of politics and the news, it is easy to lose track of the important mitzvot available to us. Reader P.D.Fender reminded me of one today, something I’ve been intending to mention.

As advanced as medical science is, there is no substitute for human blood and its components. Every day in hospitals everywhere there is someone hanging on to life who will lose that battle unless some good soul has donated blood.

The American Red Cross has made it easy for donors. All a person has to do is go to the Red Cross donor website, enter their zip code, and all available locations for donating on a given day will appear. You can sign up electronically, so that you have an appointment and donation will not involve a long wait.

Each donation of whole blood has the potential to save three lives that would otherwise be lost to bleeding or to disease. Red blood cells also save those depleted by anemia. Platelets are used for treatment for dengue, leukemia and cancer patients, and plasma can replace clotting factors which may be depleted in bleeding or infection.

There are many reasons there is almost always a shortage of blood supplies. First, many people can’t be donors because their blood might hurt, not help the sick. You can check for your own eligibility at this site. Secondly, even those who are eligible to give can only give at specific intervals, so their bodies can recover. According to the Red Cross:

You must wait at least eight weeks (56 days) between donations of whole blood and 16 weeks (112 days) between Power Red donations. Platelet apheresis donors may give every 7 days up to 24 times per year. Regulations are different for those giving blood for themselves (autologous donors).

I used to be a regular whole blood donor. My veins are not easy, so it was a bit of a nuisance. On the other hand, every time I donated I knew that I was performing an important mitzvah, so it was well worth the trouble. Illness ended my ability to donate, because the drugs I must take would hurt, not help a patient. This mitzvah is no longer available to me.

I encourage all of my readers who are eligible to donate blood or blood components. I won’t lie to you and say, “It’s easy!” but it is not as difficult as you may fear if you have never given. There is no feeling in the world like knowing that you are saving a lives.

There is no substitute for human blood. This is something we can do for one another, no matter what nonsense is going on in Washington, no matter what horrors are in the news. It truly is the gift of life.

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