When I was younger, my father talked me into giving blood for the first time. I went with him to our church that was having a blood drive for a young woman that was going through cancer. I gave, felt fine and afterward, I had a great feeling like I really helped someone. As time went on, I would give from time to time whenever I thought about it, maybe once or twice a year.

Bu then everything changed. My girlfriend, now my wife, Chris, was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. It’s a blood cancer that she found because she went to the doctors with a swollen lymph node in her neck. Chris had many rounds of chemo that took its toll on her physically. One day while I was at work, I got a call from her co-worker telling me she was rushing Chris to the oncologist because she was too weak to stand. I got to the doctors before she did, and when she pulled up I saw Chris. She looked like she was going to die. We grabbed a wheelchair and pushed her into the chemo center in Johnson City. When her doctor saw her, he

One day while I was at work, I got a call from Chris's co-worker telling me she was rushing Chris to the oncologist because she was too weak to stand. I got to the doctors before she did, and when she pulled up I saw Chris. She looked like she was going to die. We grabbed a wheelchair and pushed her into the chemo center in Johnson City. When her doctor saw her, he

When Chris's doctor saw her, he must have thought she was going to die as well because he stopped what he was doing, yelled at all the nurses to stop what they were doing and started barking out orders for them to get her into a room and give her an emergency transfusion. Chris received two pints of blood and as soon as they were finished, she felt like she could run a marathon. From that point on, I made the decision to give blood as often as possible. And I have.

I used to give whole blood, but when they saw that I have an above average number of platelets in my blood, they asked me to start giving platelets instead. When they take platelets, they hook you up to a machine that takes your blood out, retains the platelets, and returns the blood to your body. Platelets are used to help cancer patients, as well as other people with a variety of other issues, but mainly cancer patients. Being a cancer survivor myself, I jumped all in. You can donate platelets every seven days up to 26 times a year, however, every two weeks is the preferred schedule.

One in three people will need blood at some point in their life. Cancer patients, premature babies, trauma victims, and people undergoing surgery are those who need blood the most. Just one hour of your time can save up to three lives. I have met a lot of people over the years that have needed blood at some point, so I know how important it is.

There are such a small number of blood donors, but such a huge need. And, then when there is a storm like Stella, a lot of blood drives get canceled, putting even more of a strain on the blood supply.

The Red Cross is holding blood drives at the Oakdale Mall this Sunday, and the next two Sundays to help make up for the donations that were missed because of the Blizzard last week. You can walk in or call 1-800-RED-CROSS to make an appointment.

Please, if you can, donate blood. You will feel great and you never know, the blood you donate might save someone you love.

Jim Free