“You’ve never given blood before?” My editor looked at me incredulously. More specifically: “You’ve never given blood before and you want to encourage people to give blood this Easter?”
We were barely a week away from Good Friday, and I’d recently learnt that the Drops of Life initiative was happening again this year. Since 2016, LoveSingapore has collaborated with the Singapore Red Cross Society to host a blood donation drive, Drops of Life, over Easter weekend.
I always thought it was a compelling and meaningful cause. Jesus Christ truly was the biggest “blood donor” in world history – His blood shed for the wrongdoings of the whole of humanity, when it should have been our blood for our sins.
“For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.” (Leviticus 17:11)
“Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” (Hebrews 9:22)
In the time before Christ, the blood of unblemished animals was used in offerings to God to atone for sin – to cover it, so to speak. But this was only temporary, for the blood of animals could only cover sin, but not remove it. Think of it like a coat of paint; its effects kept wearing off. So this was the law: Animal blood had to be shed to fairly pay for sin, but it was not enough for a permanent removal.
Not until Jesus came to Earth to make the perfect, eternal sacrifice as the Holy Lamb of God.
“He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.“ (Hebrews 9:12)
It was a brutal, bloody sacrifice and despairingly unfair in nature – for Jesus Himself never sinned. But that’s what it took, an unblemished man to shed his blood for the sins of mankind. And what unblemished man was there but one sent from God Himself – God in the flesh, who could die without a spot of sin?
He didn’t have to, but He gave His blood for us anyway. Anything to save our lives.
We’ll never be able – or required – to repay the favour, but this we can do: Donate from the life source that flows inside us, so that someone out there can live. Every day, 400 units of blood are needed to treat the ill and injured in Singapore; each sitting of blood donation draws 1 unit from us.
So much demand, but not much supply: Less than 2% of the population donates blood at all.
That’s possibly because popping out to a bloodbank just isn’t the same as “Let’s go get some bubble tea”, and if you’re squeamish like me, a giant blood-extracting needle sticking in your arm for 15 minutes – or even entering your arm to begin with – isn’t exactly on the bucket list.
So when the conversation took an unexpected escalation to “Let’s all go donate blood today!” … I panicked. The only other person in the team who hadn’t ever given blood either also panicked. But my editor was adamant. “We can’t do a story on blood donation if the person writing it has never donated blood herself!”
Within an hour, four of us were out the door and on our way to the nearest bloodbank. The ride there was a blur. I wasn’t even giving all my blood or getting nailed to a cross, but here I was, hoping this cup would be taken from me.
Little did I know that my blood would not be found worthy.
After filling out the brief form on my medical history, I was called into one of the rooms to run through my details with the medical officer. Everything was clear, until we reached the segment on the medication I was taking. “You can’t give blood today,” she informed me. “You can’t have taken any medication in the past three days. Come back next time.”
I wasn’t as happy to hear this as I thought I’d be.
And as it turns out, of the four Thir.st staff who made the trip down, only my editor made it through to the final step of actually giving blood; my fellow blood-donating newbie was found to have an iron deficiency after the blood test – she left with a complimentary dosage of iron supplements. The fourth among us had to do some heavy lifting for an event within the next 72 hours so wasn’t allowed to donate blood that day for her own safety.
“Looks like a man gave his blood for us again,” the three of us joked as we sat in the waiting area, looking longingly at the refreshments that were laid out … only for donors. After all, one person’s donation can serve three lives, as one of the many infographics on the walls helpfully informed us.
But it’s not such statistics that compel most to head to bloodbanks regularly. Sadly, it usually takes witnessing the great need for blood in hospital situations, in the face of emergency or illness. Blood cannot be kept for more than 42 days, which is why regular donation is everyone’s responsibility.
As I sat waiting for my editor to be done, and seeing four donors each sacrificing their precious lunch hour to make a bloody donation, I couldn’t help but think back on a time one of my best friends from university almost lost his life on the operating table. He lost a dangerous amount of blood – several litres of the mere 5L we have on average in our body – and was only saved that day by a major blood transfusion.
Someone’s donation made all the difference that day. Every donation could be the difference between someone living and someone dying.
I’m still uncomfortable thinking about that needle, but I think I’ll head back next week to try again.
Taking place over Easter weekend, Drops of Life is open to all who love Singapore and its people, regardless of race or religion. Please ensure that you’re qualified to donate beforehand. If you’re interested, please register here in advance.
Saturday, 31 Mar | 12pm-6pm
Resurrection Sunday, 1 Apr | 12pm-6pm
Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre
Level 2, Crescent 2