P1080866And maybe save a life. While lying down.

Give blood.

Many, many people donate blood, yet there’s still a need. I knew this, but there was always a reason why it wasn’t convenient to participate during the local blood drives. Finally my kid challenged me to do it and wanted to watch. No peer pressure is as intense as kid pressure on a parent to bring out our better angels.

logoSo we went one morning after shopping at the market. Several volunteers dressed as big drops of blood were pleading with people at the market to walk down the block to the room where an efficient army of workers was taking donations from a surprisingly robust crowd of volunteers.

I flunked the test, though. I had run that morning (no exercise too soon before or after) and had only coffee for breakfast. I went back after a big lunch. It went smoothly, and afterward we sat at a long table of very French food: cheese, hard sausage, brioche and some industrial baked goods (Breton cookies and palmiers). Lots of juice and water. I had some cheese and brioche and palmiers and drank a lot and figured I was good to go.

We got about a block when my head started to spin. It had been decades since I’d last donated blood. My kid guided me to a bench on the street, and I felt better after a minute. But we hadn’t gone half a block when I got dizzy again. We were in front of a café and I quickly put myself onto a chair on the sidewalk. But I started to slide right off it and couldn’t stop. My kid was trying to get me up. People stared. My kid informed me that people thought I was drunk. Lovely! Some nice ladies went into the café and came out with water and sugar, and I managed to drink it, and eventually perked up enough to get around the corner to our AirBnB apartments, which were empty that weekend. I lay down and waited for my husband to come. No driving home. I would get my car later.

Now I am in the database, and two months later I got a call from the Établissement Français du Sang (French Blood Establishment) asking for more. I learned that I could take an appointment at their offices at the hospital, with no waiting and parking right in front of the door. I got my husband to drive me just in case, but I was fine.

It was even quicker, and I thought gosh, I should do this more often–well, whenever they call. The other donors clearly were regulars.

Although I was tired the rest of the day, I have to admit I felt like a million bucks the day after. I looked up information about giving blood and found out it burns 650 calories, on average, which was a sweet bonus. Especially because you need to eat something decent beforehand (the second time I had a nice protein-rich breakfast of eggs) and will eat something afterward. I do miss those American doughnuts.

EFS_Header_Merci_2017Donating blood regularly also reduces the risk of cancer and heart disease, which makes up for the lack of doughnuts.

You can donate blood every eight weeks, which comes to about six times a year. You give about a liter, or a pint, of blood per donation, which can help up to three people. You also can donate plasma and platelets, which involve a longer process and which can be donated more frequently.

My dad received blood transfusions. He would complain that his “counts were down,” and that he “needed a pint,” as if he had some kind of dipstick and it was akin to glug-glugging in a can of blood like oil into a car. I can’t bring him back, but I can help somebody else.

So can you.




28 thoughts on “Burn 650 Calories in 10 Minutes

  1. In the U.S., I was turned down as a donor after I checked the box letting them know that I had lived abroad (in France!) during 1998 and 1999. Apparently they did not want blood from anyone who may have been exposed to beef during the Mad Cow disease years! I tried again nearly ten years later, but they still said no – for the same reason. No matter that I assured them I had only eaten French beef, and that I would surely have shown effects by that time. Well now that I am back living in France, that should not be an obstacle, so I will surely look for an opportunity to donate soon. Thanks for reminding us that this is still and always a critical need, and bless your dad and his good sense of humor.


    1. Wow. There was something about mad cow, as well as foot-and-mouth on the form. You can go to the EFS site and do the questionnaire online to check your eligibility.
      After I lived in Kenya, I couldn’t donate for a while because of exposure to malaria.


    1. A falling-down drunk! That was after giving blood, not before. They said people sometimes pass out the first time, but I felt fine….until I didn’t. It’s true that the second time was problem-free.
      Yes, it’s healthy for you and of course for the recipients.


  2. I donate about four times a year. It takes a bit longer for the iron levels in my system to build themselves back up again, which they need at a certain level. I’ve never had a problem with it, aside from a bit of a bruise around the needle point, but I’ve seen people who have felt faint either during the donation or afterwards. The nurses keep an eye on everyone, and when that happens, all of them seem to converge at once on the person in question.

    It does help to have a good breakfast beforehand, and to drink lots of fluids during the day afterwards. And no heavy lifting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s great! The iron is supposed to be what’s linked to heart attacks and cancer. One of those things where you need enough but too much isn’t good either, and giving blood brings it down.
      The last time I went, the phlebotomist was so skilled I didn’t feel the needle prick and saw only the tiniest spot afterward–no bruise.


  3. I’m too old! I used to live in San Diego, and the homeless guys sold their blood to the blood banks. Don’t know if that is still allowed. I wouldn’t mind donating, having had many blood tests which don’t bother me at all. Guess they are afraid of killing us oldies off …. but good for you!
    bonnie in provence

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The French make such a huge effort to get people to donate … every commune has the van more than once a year and it is well advertised. Its great that you have highlighted this fact and I hope many will follow your example. My husband donates in France (can’t in the US because he lived in France in the 1980s) but sadly, I had Acute Myeloid Leukemia in 2011/12 and am verboten.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Our village has a blood collection four times a week, and the setup always looks very impressive and efficient! I’ve been told that I can’t donate blood in France because I’ve lived in the UK for too long 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi midihideaways, I’m Bonnie who lived in Roquebrun for 6 years or so, and am now in the Avignon area but still own the house (rented to my former maçon long term). We may know each other! Your website is quite good, congrats!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I have always been a low-iron kind of girl and giving blood regularly hasn’t been an option. I’m A-negative and when I was younger I was in our local database if my blood type were needed. Back when I was in college they used to pay for blood and a friend of mine was AB negative. In the 70’s he’d get enough money to have a very fine dinner date with his girlfriend!

    Glad you had your son along to help you in your falling down mode. Although at that age, my jokester son would have gone with, “I didn’t know she was that drunk.”

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I wanted to give blood on my return to France in 2003, but my name was put on the “Mad Cow” list because I had lived in the UK in the Eighties!

    Liked by 1 person

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