I donate blood and platelets at a local blood donor center. The type of donation I do takes longer than your average blood donation. Once I'm hooked on the machine, it usually takes about 90 minutes until completion. But with the extra time, they not only take regular "whole blood" but also take platelets and plasma if they need it. They can also do a double red donation through this process. Every time they hook me up to the machine, they ask if they can take X, Y and/or Z. I always tell them, I'm here, just take what you need.
So for the past few years, I've been getting an invitation to their annual donor dinner. I usually had conflicts. This year it was an open night, and I really wanted to see what goes on at these events. The dinner choices were Chicken, Steak, or Veggie. I called to make a reservation (it's an answering machine that takes it) and said that I keep kosher, so I wouldn't be eating, I just wanted to hear the presentations.
So late yesterday afternoon, I ate some left over spaghetti, then headed on over. It was being held at the local Marriott. When I checked in, they didn't have my reservation for some reason (seemed to happen to a lot of people, maybe using an answering machine to take reservations isn't a hot idea). Anyway, they wrote out a name tag and asked me what I wanted to eat. I explained that I keep strictly kosher, and wouldn't be eating there. The woman started fussing and kept trying to convince me to take the veggie meal, or else wanted to call down to the kitchen and have them make me something else. Another volunteer there was Jewish, and she understood the situation and explained to the first why that wouldn't work. I told them that really, I was fine, I just wanted to hear the presentations and see what the event was like.
After that, I was wandering around a bit, checking out the hotel. I decided to buy a Snickers bar to eat during the dinner. At the desk, they also had a bowl of oranges. I asked if I could have one, they said "Sure." I then said that would be my dinner for tonight. The hotel worker looked me over (I wear a kippah). He then said "You know, they keep kosher food on hand in the kitchen." I looked at him and asked for more information. He said they have wrapped kosher food set aside for when they had people staying who required kosher food, and they could provide it at the dinner. Well, SURE, I'll agree to that!
I was a little late in the seating, but found an open table near the front of the room. Turned out I sat next to another Jewish woman, and also at the table were two people from the JCC! (they sponsored blood drives there). The Jewish woman who helped me before came up to me and said that they did have the kosher food, and I would be getting it soon.
First they came out with a roll and plasticware. The plasticware was wrapped up REALLY tight. I needed a knife just to open it up! Everything was wrapped and sealed with the name of a kosher restaurant that I know (and trust) plus the local Vaad oversight.
Then came out the main course, chicken, potatoes, and green beans. Okay, granted this was a reheated meal, and a tad dry, but still, considering that I thought I was only going to have an orange and a Snickers bar for dinner, it was pretty darn good!
I had the orange for dessert, and saved the Snickers bar for another day.
After the dinner, they had several people come up and speak. The most heart wrenching one was the mother of two children, 3 and 5 years old. (Instantly hit me, as Tikva will be 5 this summer, and Ahava just turned 3). Her 3 year old son came down with a very bad fever (106 degrees), then had pneumonia, and then they found he had a rare disease (I can't remember the name), but basically resulted in him having almost 0 platelets. He was in and out of surgery and the OR, tubes everywhere, and at one point actually died and had to be resuscitated. Without the donated blood products, he absolutely would not have survived. He needed to be pushed around in a wheel chair for months, and needed to have his head supported, but eventually he relearned to walk, talk, eat, etc. And his mother said he's almost back to normal, running around, playing, etc. They then showed a picture show, before, during, and after his ordeal. I admit, I had to wipe my tears to see the pictures clearly. From now on, whenever I hear negative comments about the time I spend donating blood/platelets, etc. ("Maybe bad people will get it," "They make money off your blood," "There are other people who can donate, why do you have to?" etc.) I'll see the face of that 3 year old boy and know that without donors, he would not be alive today.
Oh, and I got a nice mug for my 20th ABC (Automated Blood Collection) Donation. They had people there who had their 100th, 200th, and even 300th donation (you can donate this way every two weeks). I have a lot of catching up to do!