Delivering blood: A safe way to give back

Red Cross volunteer Michael Binkow told a version of this story on our “Close to the Vest: Alone/Together” livestream event. Full video below.  

Hi everybody. I’m going to tell a brief story about how I became interested in blood driving. I had trained as a blood driver about five years ago, because I thought it might be interesting and helpful to people and hospitals to deliver blood. 

To be honest, I hated it because it was too isolating. I was struggling in traffic, which was horrible and frankly, it was boring. So, I put it aside and focused on the other Red Cross activities I was doing, which was disaster preparedness, DATa little bit, and also the home fire campaign, which I love. 

Well, along comes 2020 and COVID-19, and all my volunteering opportunities with the Red Cross, as well as Make-A-Wish Foundation and The Shower of Hope came to a halt. 

I’m in a fairly highrisk categoryso my wife and I have been sequestered at home since March 13. And this has given a whole new meaning to the term “honey-dos.” For those of you who don’t know “honey-dos,” it’s “Honey, can you do this?” “Honey, can you do that?” 

I want the vaccine just so I can experience “Honey-don’t.” Seriously, I didn’t really want to put myself, my family and my friends at risk, obviously, because you don’t want to encounter too many people. And while I was throwing my little pity party, it hit me — driving blood is exactly the perfect COVID-19-friendly way to volunteer.  

So, I got back involved, contacted Ana Ramirez, Senior Recruitment Specialist for Volunteer Services, who has been great. And I’ve been active ever since. 

I’m going to talk a little bit about what we do as blood drivers. Because when I started volunteering, I realized how low risk it was.  

And essentially what happens is when I go to the depot, I start my shift at Culver City. There’s also a depot in Pomona, which is our main depot, where I encounter one person behind glass and he or she takes my temperature and gives me van keys, large big boxes of blood products and sends me on my way. 

You know, we can transport blood, plasma and platelets. And we can visit many hospitals in one shift. Also not easy to explain to my wife on a particular day, believe me. 

Then, I’m by myself in a Red Cross van, listening to a book or music until I arrive at the hospital, which at first, I’m not going to lie, is scary. I expected to see tons of zombie patients everywhere like the Walking Dead. But the reality is at the hospitals in Southern California, you basically encounter one person in the blood bank and you are there for less than 5 minutes, which is awesome. 

The special bonus is that you can park right in front. You put on your hazard lights and you zip right in, which is really a plus. My opinion so far is that hospitals are really the safest places to be, because everyone is taking it really seriously. No one is lingering about. And no, in 10 months I have not encountered a zombie yet. 

Another true pandemic positive is traffic. Oh my gosh, the traffic is amazing, and who ever thought we would say that in Southern California, but it is great. I can go to Culver City and do runs to Mission Viejo in 45 minutes and back in 45 minutes, which is incredible. So hopefully it stays that way forever, but it has really been a pandemic plus. 

At first, I was hesitant because of the boxes of blood. What if I screwed up and delivered to the wrong hospital? What if something leaks? It is raw, live blood, so eww. Also, before I recruited other people to do this, I wanted to make sure it wasn’t janky. And it’s definitely not. It’s really awesome because overall it’s an excellent, safe way to give back. Not only are we an essential part of the pipeline, because each shift we are delivering blood products, we are saving the Red Cross significant actual dollars, because for every shift a volunteer takes, we don’t have to call a courier service which costs money. 

When I pitch friends, family and other volunteers on this particular opportunity, I point out that each time you drive a blood shift you are donating money to the Red Cross directly. And it’s really wonderful. 

Not only are we keeping the pipeline going, we are actually saving money for the organization, which is great. So, it’s incredible and enticing and hopefully for all of you that haven’t done it, you’ll get involved and give it a whirl. Because once you know how to drive the vans, it’s all real easy from there. 

Thanks very much.

Learn more about volunteering as a Red Cross Blood Driver.

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