To bleed, or not to bleed: that is the question!

J. Francois Barnard – 5 April 2014

I have been a blood donor for the last 16 years. Just the other day, April 2, 2014, I donated my 92nd pint of blood. By 2015, somewhere in the winter, I should reach number 100. Won't it be great if I can take as many new donors as possible with me that day?

My bloody story started many years before I started donating blood in 1998. Let's go back thirteen years before that to 1985.

It was the end of 1985, and I was studying chemistry for my first year of engineering at Pretoria University when I fell pretty ill. My liver was malfunctioning and my eyes and skin turned yellow. It was some form of hepatitis, but the cause thereof was unknown. It was exam time, and my dad and I had a bad falling out. I was obviously stressed out, and that did not help.

I sort of recovered in 1986, but had a bad relapse after another stressful time: I got married at the end of March 1986, and my bride was killed in a car wreck seven weeks later. It was two weeks before my midyear exams, and it was not long before I turned yellow again.

life04A superb physician, Dr. Chris Zaidy, performed a biopsy on my liver. With hindsight, we know today that my condition at the time was not developed to the extent where Dr. Chris could find any fault with me. I was young and recovered quickly again.

From then on I had blood tests done fairly regularly. My liver functions were abnormal, but not as much as to really get worried about it. Twelve years later, in 1998, I had a new GP who said we should take a look at the liver's trend from the data of the last 12 years.

The trend showed that at the rate my liver functions were deteriorating, I would be bedridden or dead by 2010 or 2011. It was time to go to the physician again.

A second biopsy by Professor Van den Bogarde clearly showed what Dr. Chris Zaidy could not see in the beginning. A condition of hemochromatosis was depositing iron in my internal organs, starting at the liver. Professor Van den Bogarde extended his hand to me: "Welcome to the Iron Man's club!"

On the one side, I appreciated his light-heartedness, but on the other hand, the prognosis of being either dead or bedridden by 2011 was worrying.

"Don't worry", said Van den Bogarde, "I have a treatment for you which will cost you nothing, and set your liver straight within a few years from now."

I was to start donating my iron-rich blood every eight weeks. If you donate every eight weeks, your blood is useful to the Blood Donor Service. If you cut the period down to say six weeks, they have to incinerate it, and then you have to pay for this service. I obviously started off donating every 8 weeks.

After a year, blood tests showed that my liver functions did not deteriorate that year. After another year my liver functions improved slightly. By the third year, it improved a lot, and now, sixteen years later you will not find a trace of hemochromatosis in my system! I can conclude my bloody story here, but there is a spiritual side to it as well.


I still recall that first donation at the Blood Donor Service's outlet in Sunnypark shopping center in Sunnyside, Pretoria. As I was lying on that narrow red bench, I asked God why I had to do this. You know how you question God when things seem to start going wrong? At the time I was still worried, not knowing if I will live to see good results.

The answer I got was quite surprising: "Don't you want to be reminded of Me every eight weeks?"

It then dawned upon me.

Most Christians remind themselves of the Greatest Day in the history of Christianity every Easter weekend. Every year they rejoice in the fact that Jesus gave His Blood to save all humanity.

"Every eight weeks you give one pint of your iron-rich blood to help some anonymous person which might have an iron deficiency", He said, "and 2000 years ago Jesus gave ALL his Blood, once and for all, for Mankind's righteousness-deficiency."

So while you enjoy your Easter holiday this year, thinking about the everlasting work Jesus did on the Cross of Calvary, why don't you go to the Blood Donor Service and imitate Christ, and continue doing so every eight weeks? Just give one pint, and remind yourself that He gave all of the 10.6 pints His human body had - once and for all.

And He did it for you too!