Helping the Helpers
As with so many, my heart is broken over the explosions at the Boston Marathon. Although I cannot fathom the trauma suffered by the victims, families, and witnesses affected, the fact that it happened at a race hits close to home. My husband and his brother have run numerous marathons, I have many friends who run, and I am running a ten miler this weekend. However, because of yet another senseless act of violence ,the excitement of crossing the finish line will be overshadowed by the worry of being one step away from a similar tragedy.
I sometimes struggle with the fact that part of the reason that the blood community even exists is to respond to these disasters that are an inevitable part of the human experience. But, as I see the post going viral on Facebook quoting childhood-favorite Mr. Rogers about looking for the "helpers" in scary times, I am reminded that we provide more than blood to people who need it. We provide a place for the "helpers" to go when they don't know what else to do. In a mass tragedy like the events that occurred in Boston, giving blood is often one of the first things people do to help. There are numerous stories from Monday of runners changing course and running to the nearest hospital attempting to donate.
Yet, one of the biggest challenges blood bankers face in these situations is the conflict between accepting blood donors who want to help, and ensuring that we don't over-collect. All the while, we must gently encourage eager donors to make appointments over the weeks and months ahead to ensure that we maintain an ample blood supply at all times. We take on this delicate balancing act all while expressing our gratitude to donors who offer to roll up their sleeves, and attempting to provide them with the comfort they are looking for in the aftermath of crisis. Not an easy task - but sadly, one that's becoming old hat.
I'm sure that I, and the thousands of other runners, will have Boston on our minds as we race towards the finish line Sunday. And although we will never be able to change the fact that tragedies, large and small, will continue to occur in the world, I will focus on replacing my fear with pride, knowing that our blood centers and all who support them play a role not only in saving people's lives, but also in healing their hearts.
Jodi Zand, Director of Fund Development, The Foundation for America's Blood Centers