Giving blood is something that’s close to my heart.
When I was 14 years old, I received seven units of packed red blood cells from strangers during and after spinal surgery. In 2003 when an orthopedist bravely cut the steel rod fused to my spine, readjusted it and inserted new hardware, I got another four units. So I’m keenly aware of this mitzvah, of giving blood. It saves lives.
Today, thousands will donate blood to honor the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
As a practicing hematologist through 2006, I wasn’t aware of this phenomenon. Over the past week, I’ve scoured blood journals, blood-banking websites and even contacted a few leaders in the field, but found few doctors familiar with the tradition or what’s at least a trend as tracked by the all-knowing Source:
It’s not clear exactly when this practice, now seemingly integrated with nationwide MLK National Day of Service events, began. The Orlando Sentinel published an article linking blood donation with MLK on January 14 1988: