I was 17 years old when I first gave blood…a freshman in college some 800 miles from home. Supervised by sophomores, we had through several nights spent hours digging a pit that we filled with water on a bright and balmy September day. Then, eight men to a side, the freshmen and sophomores took hold of the rope, dug in our heels, and strained to pull the other crew into that muddy ditch. I do not remember who won the tug-of-war, for losers and winners both ended up in that churning tub, and my muddy clothes and spackled spectacles constituted a victory of sorts: if we had won then our victory was short; if we lost, we hunted down the winners and any spectators we could catch and dragged them into the pit.
Until one fellow fell awkwardly and broke his arm. A quick visit to the local doctor was followed by a call for blood. Responding to the call, I went to the medic’s office and my blood was typed. It was a process that I cannot recall. Two of us, the other a sophomore, had the requisite type A-negative blood the broken-limbed fellow required. Off we went to the nearest city 60 miles away. There, we were checked again and—in a ritual I have participated in regularly for the next sixty-three years—I squeezed a ball for a few minutes before an alarmed attendant cried me to a halt because the bag was full.