I like to think of myself as a generous person willing to give of myself, whether of my money, time, or bodily fluids.

Twice a year I participate in my congregation’s community blood drive in which many of our members donate blood, some even voluntarily.

The good thing about blood donations is they go straight to those in need, unlike monetary donations that are sometimes put towards things like administrative costs, publicity, and 120’ foot yachts.  Another good thing is, while mismanaged charity funds require legal action, mishandled blood requires only a mop and pail.

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An added benefit to giving blood is, it’s rewarding.  You get free stuff like Knicks tickets, coupons for a free pound of coffee, and all you can eat muffins and juice at the canteen.  Plus, someone gets to live.

If you’ve never donated blood, here are a few things you should expect:

1. When you donate, be prepared to check your status at the door.   Nobody cares if you work on Wall Street, drive a Lexus, or own three vacation homes, only how many pints and platelets you drop.

2. You’ll be required to fill out a health history form during which you’ll reveal things about yourself even you didn’t know.  Watch out for trick questions, such as, “Have you ever had male to male sex?” “Had sexual activity with a male who you think might be bisexual?”  “Had sexual activity with a male who thinks you might be bisexual?”

After you complete the survey, a trained professional will interrogate you about your sex life and drug use stopping just short of hungry dogs and power tools.  To ensure confidentiality, the questioning is conducted in an individual booth made of ¾” particleboard.

3. When you’re done telling a total stranger whether you’ve ever accepted money for drugs or sex, a specially trained technician will ask you to relax so he can take your blood pressure.

He’ll squeeze an inflatable rubber cuff on your arm like a tourniquet until either your forearm bulges like Popeye’s or separates completely from your body.   Then he will take your pulse to make sure you are still alive.  The purpose of this “mini-physical” is to ensure you are healthy enough to donate.

The next step involves blood, so if you’re sensitive to pain, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and concentrate on a focal point before you scream like you’re on fire.  Congratulations, you’ve passed the finger prick. But wait!  Your iron is low.  Do not pass to donor bed.  Do not collect $200.00.  To move forward, you must either take in large quantities of iron by: consuming it (such as by eating a truckload of spinach or swallowing an iron skillet), receiving a blood transfusion, or taking iron pills.  Then go back to number 1.

4.  After donating, you may resume daily activities, but avoid heavy lifting, strenuous exercise, and leeching your wounds for the remainder of the day.  Expect to receive a phone request for blood from every blood center south of Helsinki every eight weeks for the rest of your life.

Remember, it takes a certain kind of person to give bloodthe kind that tolerates pain.  But don’t let needles and cross-examination scare you away.   Just remind yourself that you’re donating for a good cause.  And that what happens at the blood drive stays at the blood drive.

Valentine’s Day is coming soon.  Have a heart—give blood.

When Jersey Girl Lisa Tognola traded her job as freelance writer for that of full-time mother of three children, it didn’t take long before her writing was reduced to grocery lists, notes to school nurses excusing her kids from gym class, and e-mails to her husband reminding him to call his mother.  Daily life as a suburban mom was fraught with challenges and unexpected dangers like adult dinner groups, town hall meetings and home shopping parties.  Rather than fight her fate, this mom embraced it by unleashing her inner columnist.  Her weekly column, Main Street Musings, reflects on life in the suburbs---the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Visit her blog http://mainstreetmusingsblog.com/.  Follow her on twitter @lisatognola