“Blood alone moves the wheels of history.” — Martin Luther.

What is considered the most precious substance in the world?

Gold would have to be near the top of the list. Throughout the centuries, gold has consistently been sought after and coveted by mankind. It was one of the gifts presented the baby Jesus by the Magi, it covered the funeral mask of King Tut and helped swell the population of California in the mid-1800s.

And, as of this week it is trading at more than $1,650 an ounce. Precious stuff, indeed.

Diamonds not only are a girl’s best friend, but also are among the world’s most precious materials.

It is amazing a bunch of highly compressed carbon atoms would engender much excitement, but diamonds, the hardest natural material, have been softening hearts for centuries.

Precious? Give her a diamond, watch her face, then tell me they are not precious.

The value of some substances lies in the eye of the beholder. Wine connoisseurs wax rhapsodic about a vintage’s nose, its brawny quality and whether it is plonk, port or premier cru. Such people would be willing to pay $47,000 for a bottle of 1945 Chauteu Mouton-Rothschild. The appeal, I fear, is lost on non-oenophiles like myself.

Water is something many people take for granted, but it is something without which life would not exist. Water is a hot topic these days in our state, as the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes have sued to stop the Oklahoma Water Resources Board from selling its water storage rights in Sardis Lake to Oklahoma City without an agreement with the tribes.

Worldwide, with the planet’s burgeoning population, clean water could wind up becoming more precious than any other substance. The United Nations’ 2012 World Water Development Report, says about four billion people worldwide lack access to fresh, clean, potable water.

But besides life-sustaining water, the most precious substance in the world is blood.

Blood carries oxygen and nutrients and cleans away carbon dioxide and waste materials. Blood literally is life.

An average-sized person has just more than five quarts of blood in their body, with men having a little more, women a little less.

Gina Walker, a Texas woman, knows all too well how precious blood is. Earlier this year she was pregnant with a little girl, when she was diagnosed with placenta percreta, a rare condition that takes the lives of one in seven women in whom it occurs.

In February of this year, Walker delivered her baby by C-section. Her doctors were ready, they knew her condition would cause bleeding, they just didn’t know how much.

By the time Walker’s condition was stabilized, she had gone through 35 gallons of blood.

Some of the blood came from her friends, and friends of friends. But much had to have come from strangers.

Donating blood is one of the easiest, most painless (well, mostly) and yet most selfless things you can do.

If you are 16 years old or older, weigh at least 125 pounds and are in good health, you are eligible to donate. There is no upper age limit, though Oetzi, a 5,300-year-old body found frozen in 1991 in the Italian Alps, is probably too old. Researchers recently found red blood cells around Oetzi’s wounds, making his the oldest blood ever.

I first was talked into donating at a blood drive at my church a number of years ago. I didn’t really want to do it. Bleeding on purpose just didn’t seem a very good idea at the time. But I bowed to peer pressure.

After I did it once I decided it wasn’t so bad, so I did it again, and I have been doing it ever since, for about the past three decades.

Oklahomans historically respond to disasters, both natural and man-made, and one of the ways they respond is by donating blood. But the need for blood never goes away. Every day, someone needs blood, whether because of injury, cancer, burns, surgery or trauma.

When a patient needs blood, they need it right then, not later. If no blood is available at the time, a life could be lost.

By donating blood, then, you can be sure you have saved someone’s life, or two someones, or even three. Each blood donation, it is estimated, can save up to three lives.

Now consider the three people in the world who mean the most to you, now imagine them lying in the hospital, needing blood, and none being available. Yeah, it could happen. Now imagine yourself in the same position. That could happen, too.

Donating blood’s not for me, you say? Don’t like needles, don’t have the time, just don’t think that’s something you care to do, think you’ll let someone else do it, you say? If enough someone elses took the same attitude, the blood supply would be in serious jeopardy.

Blood donation isn’t painless, and yes there is a needle involved, and it will require you to bleed, but there isn’t a thing worth doing in this life that doesn’t involve a little sacrifice.

After you donate you’ll be light a pint of blood, but you can take comfort in the knowledge you have just made a difference in the life of someone you’ll never meet.

And that feeling is the true benefit of donating blood. That and the cookies always available when you finish, of course.

Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at jmullin@enidnews.com.

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