You can tell that the blood is fresh if you tap on the arm and it sounds like a melon
You can tell that the blood is fresh if you tap on the arm and it sounds like a melon Belyjmishka / Getty Images

Blood! There’s blood everywhere. At the very moment you’re reading this, blood is swirling through all of the meat in your body. Every person you pass on the street is carrying around about a gallon and a half of the stuff. There’s no escaping the constant presence of blood. It’s all around us. No wonder vampires seem so tortured.

And yet … there’s still not enough blood, at least not everywhere it’s needed. Since the start of the pandemic, blood donation drives have been sharply curtailed for safety reasons, and hospitals have been teetering even more desperately on the brink of running out. Isn't there any other source of blood that we could prod?

Yes, as it turns out, there’s still one untapped resource, and it's the same one Zordon turned to in his darkest hour: Teenagers with attitude.

A bill to facilitate youth blood donation passed the Senate Health & Long Term Care Committee late Friday, paving the way for people as young as 16 to donate platelets. Currently, teens are allowed to donate whole blood, but they aren’t allowed to undergo a process known as “apheresis,” which separates platelets from donations before the blood is returned to the donor’s body.

The bill, SB 5179, would lower the minimum age for apheresis to 16. After a hearing last week, it was enthusiastically approved and moved to the Senate Rules Committee, the issue flowing like life-giving sanguine fluid through the legislative process. It’s a good idea for several reasons: Blood centers are always experiencing shortages (there are currently five centers in our region that have only a one-day supply on hand); it’s a good way for students to complete community-service hours; and teenagers would probably just waste that blood anyway on snorting goofballs and listening to rock music.

Introduced by Marko Liias (a mostly-good Democrat), the bill was inspired by a constituent who reached out to him when her donation attempt was deferred by a blood bank.

Grace Griffin, a 16-year-old from Lynnwood, was eventually able to donate, and told the committee, “I was giving my blood to a stranger … giving them a few moments to say I love you to a partner, hug their family, and laugh with friends.” She decided to reach out to Liias and advocate for change, she said, because she thought that “if my blood can do that, maybe when I’m older I can do more.”

James Moore, donor services supervisor for Bloodworks NW, said that establishing early donation habits is crucial. “Many donors only adopt this habit later in life, and many times medical challenges come with that renewed altruism,” he told the committee, adding that many of their long-time donors have recently passed on.

The only red flag was raised by Clark County Republican Ann Rivers, who asked whether this would be limited to volunteer blood drives. “I remember being a broke college student and going in,” she said. “Is this also for paid donation?”

A good question! Another good question: Why, in such a wealthy country, are people allowed to fall into such desperate times that they have to sell their blood for cash? Blood may be necessary to save someone’s life in a crisis, but systemically, capitalism is the greatest disease of all. Introduce a bill to THAT effect in the Health and Long Term Care Committee and see how far you get.

And while it's nice that soon phlebotomists will be able to squeeze a few more platelets from arms, there's a much, much larger group that's still banned from donating: Men who have sex with men. Until recently, that was effectively a lifetime ban; after the start of the pandemic, it was reduced to men who have been sexually active with men in the last three months. That's better ... but still a huge barrier to getting more donations into banks. (And of course, all blood donations are tested for illnesses, including HIV.)

Anyway, SB 5179 is oozing its way through committees right now, and must be approved by the full Senate by March 9 in order to advance. Seems like it should be a slam dunk, unless of course our legislators are all secretly vampires who want to horde the blood of America’s youth for themselves. Haha, just kidding, they’re not vampires; most are obviously mummies.