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09/09/09 6:10 PM ET

Donate blood and be a Red Sox hero

Drives taking place Friday at Fenway and Boston City Hall

This column didn't exist back in 2004, when Curt Schilling tore a tendon sheath in his ankle while pitching the first game of the American League Division Series against the Angels. If it had, we would have written about the radical remedy Schilling chose in order to allow him to keep pitching. The tendon was temporarily stabilized by suturing it in place through his skin.

With seeping blood staining his socks, Schilling pitched and won Game 6 of the ALCS against the Yankees and Game 2 of the World Series against the Cardinals. The Sox would go on to win their first World Series title since 1918 and "The Sock" would go on to Cooperstown.

Schilling was hailed as a hero.

How would you like to be a Fenway hero, too? Here's how you do it:

First, pull out your phone and call 1-800-GIVE-LIFE. Next, tell the pleasant voice on the other end of the line that you have an arm that the Red Sox can use. They won't laugh at you. I promise. They'll tell you when to show up on Friday, Sept. 11.

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is once again partnering with the Red Sox and the American Red Cross for the annual 9/11 Blood Drive.

From 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET at Fenway, or 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Boston City Hall, you will have the opportunity to remember and honor those we lost on 9/11 by giving others an opportunity to survive.

"By commemorating this solemn occasion through blood donation, people are giving the gift of life and helping the Red Cross provide blood to hospitals and patients in need," according to Donna M. Morrissey, director of public relations and corporate affairs for the American Red Cross Blood Services-Northeast Division. "And there are always patients in need."

In fact, every two seconds somebody in the U.S. needs blood. In the time it took to read this sentence, two more people needed your help. And that "gift of life" thing ... it's not just a line.

"I'm not sure that most people know just how much a single bag -- one pint of whole blood, can do," says Lynne Uhl, director, division of laboratory and transfusion medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. "The blood from one donor can be used to address critical needs in a number of patients."

When you give whole blood it's usually separated into several components. The red cells, which carry oxygen throughout our bodies, might be needed to support a surgical procedure. The liquid component or plasma contains clotting factors and is critical for patients who are on medicines like the blood thinner Coumadin which can raise the risk of internal bleeding. The platelets are usually spun out of whole blood as well.

For patients who are undergoing chemotherapy and find the ability to produce platelets on their own has been compromised, regular infusions of donated platelets are necessary. Trust me when I tell you that nobody is going to return this gift.

"We use about 1,500 units of red cells a month, 400-500 plasma units and close to 350 platelet units in the hospital. We generally operate just at the cusp of meeting our needs," explains Uhl. "Rarely do we have more than a two-day supply on hand.

"While blood and blood products do have a shelf life -- red cells are viable in a liquid state for up to 42 days and you can freeze plasma for up to a year -- it's almost always used in a day or two. That's why events like the 9/11 Blood Drive are so important," she adds.

Is it painless? No, but I can say honestly that it doesn't hurt much.

One needle stick and that's it. Still, that needle may be a sticking point for some. Uhl understands and offers this:

"The thought of drawing blood is enough to upset certain folks. That's OK. But I must say that, in my experience, most people who get over that initial reluctance and make that first donation are pretty willing to do it again. And I know they walk away feeling great about what they've done."

Think about it. 1-800-GIVE-LIFE. Even after Sept. 11, you can still donate. Choose another blood drive -- one near your home or work at www.giftoflife.org.

Be a hero to somebody you will never know. They might just return the favor.

Gary Gillis is a contributor to MLB.com. The BID Injury Report is a regular column on redsox.com. Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is the official hospital of The Boston Red Sox. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.