Sharing the Gift of Life

Charles Drew was destined to have a career as an athlete. In high school, he lettered in 4 sports. He received an athletic scholarship to attend Amherst College where he became a legend in both football and track. While at Amherst, he became interested in a medical career.

While he was accepted by Harvard Medical College, he decided to enroll at McGill University in Canada because minority students were treated better. He graduated second in his class.

During his residency, Dr. Drew found his passion. He and his mentor studied problems with transfusions. His work led to a method for processing and preserving blood plasma. Plasma can be stored longer than pure blood.

When World War II started, Dr. Drew headed an effort called Blood for Britain. He was able to collect blood and process the plasma for shipment to England. When the U.S. entered the war, he started another blood bank effort for the American Red Cross. He quit this effort when the military insisted that the blood from white persons be separated from the blood of persons of color.

Despite his fierce opposition to the racist policies of the military, Dr. Drew became known as the father of blood banks. Bloodmobiles were another of his innovations.

Tragically Dr. Drew died at the age of 45 from injuries sustained in a car accident. While he was unable to survive the accident, thousands of others around the world have survived accidents because they were able to receive blood from a local blood bank as a result of Dr. Drew’s efforts.

Blood donations represent one of our most endearing examples of giving to others. In fact, blood donations may be one of the earliest examples of the sharing society that is evolving today. Thankfully we have moved beyond our racist practices associated with giving and receiving blood. We are all of the same cultural, racial, and ethnic heritage when it comes to blood. There are no political divisions. Religion doesn’t matter. We are one in the blood banks throughout the nation.

Just imagine how many lives have been saved by transfusions of blood. The giving/receiving of a blood transfusion makes us all equal. Blood transfusions do not recognize privilege. Charles Drew showed how the giving/receiving of blood is a tangible example of the principles of democracy.

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“We are linked by blood, and blood is memory without language.”  – Joyce Carol Oates (Author)

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