The Great Debate: Saving Lives vs. Sweet Tea

On Saturday, I went to donate blood for the third time this year. I was on a hot streak–I was 8 for 8 on blood-giving since I started doing it in ’09.

Then my world came crashing down.

After two needle pricks, it was determined that my blood was low in iron. Too low to donate. Visions of medical mysteries swirling through my head (was my body failing me? Did I need iron supplements? Should I iron my clothes more often? Maybe adopt several kittens?), I asked the nurse if I needed to see a doctor.

“No, Sugar,” she said. “Just take some iron pills. Or…you been drinking tea?”

As a matter of fact, I have been drinking sweet tea. Quite a bit of it.

“Sugar, you gotta take a break from the sweet tea if you gonna give blood.”

“But…I love sweet tea.”

She gave me a look, and that was that.

So now I have a huge decision to make. I have to choose between these options:

  1. Give up sweet tea for a week so I can give blood on Saturday and save three lives.
  2. Keep drinking sweet tea like it’s my job.

It’s a monumental decision, possibly the biggest I’ve ever made. So I’m going to break down the two options to fully evaluate them.

  1. Give up sweet tea for a week to save three lives: Okay, perhaps it’s not fair to compare precious human lives to sweet tea consumption. But I really like sweet tea. I crave it. I want to bathe in it.
  2. Keep drinking sweet tea: Although the happy taste buds on my mouth would be ecstatic, it would be tough for me to reconcile the fact that I had chosen sweet tea over human lives. I mean, I know that people choose every day to not donate blood, but I’ve made a commitment to give as much as possible. I don’t seek an audience for that. I don’t “write” about it on a “blog.” I just do it because it’s the right thing to do.

After much deliberation and many long walks on the beach, I think I know the right answer: I’m going to give up sweet tea for a week. What would you choose?

19 thoughts on “The Great Debate: Saving Lives vs. Sweet Tea”

  1. I would choose (did choose) Option #3 – take iron supplements leading up to your donation. Iron supplements helped get me to the lower iron limit when I donated in Feb (after being deferred a few weeks prior for low iron) and I was well above the limit when I donated again a couple weeks ago. Win-Win.

    Also, I found this abstract from a study that gives recommendations on how to increase your iron absorption and also minimize the effects of tea-drinking-related inhibition of iron absorption.

    • Denise–So you’re saying that you’d neither give up saving lives or sweet tea, and that you’d just add iron supplements to your diet? I like the way you think. I’ve heard that too much iron is bad too, and I eat meat and spinach every day, so I’ll have to be careful about balancing that.

      • I think that study also suggests that drinking your sweet tea between meals (rather than with your meal) will lessen the effects of tea on iron absorption.

  2. I don’t have your sweet tea addiction/withdrawal dilemma but I was deferred for low iron several times. I found taking a multivitamin & eating Cream of Wheat works for me. I hope you find what works for you & it’s not a week without sweet tea. 🙂

    • Stefani–I like the multivitamin idea. I don’t eat much cereal (I’m an oatmeal guy), but if it means saving lives, I could try to that too.

      Also, I should note that I purposely ate two hamburgers and spinach salad the night before giving blood, but even that wasn’t enough to counteract the effects of the sweet tea. It’s pretty potent stuff, apparently.

  3. I think the more appropriate question would be which would I rather suffer – having vicious, life sucking needles stuck into my arm or consume cold tea? It’s a tough choice and I’m thankfully (usually) able to avoid both. Alternatively, you could move to a third world country and live on a farm. This would disqualify you from giving blood and ensure that no cold tea (sweet or otherwise) was available at all. Unfortunately, it would also probably remove the possibility of drinking hot tea, which might be the end of the world.

    • The needles aren’t vicious! It’s just a little prick.

      I’m not sure your solution works. But good try 🙂

      • Oh they are monsters! Modern day vampires even. And they tie up your arm first so you can’t escape. Plus they have enslaved all of the wonderful southern women – who should be out playfully pinching cheeks and sneaking you small pieces of caramel while calling you ‘suga’ – and forced them to do their bidding.

  4. Have you considered donating all of your blood and just replacing it with an equal volume of sweet tea? That seems like the ultimate win-win: dozens of lives saved and a 24/7 sweat tea experience. Ariel will handle the side effects.

  5. Give up the tea for a week. Some people in the world really want to donate blood and are working hard to achieve such a feat. They currently can’t due to medical/health reasons and here you are, being able to choose whether or not to give blood. Being able to give blood is on my list of things I wish to accomplish in my life, you’re blessed to be able to give it on a regular basis.
    Don’t you get a sense of satisfaction knowing that you get to spread yourself to people anyway? What if your blood makes them visit your blog and give you more viewers? What if you not drinking tea for a week means your blood saves a really hot Asian female? 😛

  6. I have read (and continue to read) many contrary and confusing articles on the topic. Most recently, I’m hearing that iron from Meat sources is not impacted by tannin consumption, but Iron from vegitable sources (your daily Spinach salads) is impacted.

    My dad has been rejected from giving blood due to Iron deficiency. His doctor put him on Iron pills, but it surprised me how long it took to build Iron back up in the blood. From what he said, it’s not a “I’ll eat steak the week and be fine” kind of thing. I am looking for a solution for this as well, as virtually all I drink is (Unsweet) tea and some vitamin water. I have been sick the last two times my work has had blood drives, but I hope that the next time they have it, I’m good to go.

    • John–Well, we’ll see what happens to me this Saturday when I try again. I haven’t had sweet tea since Sunday, I continue to eat spinach every day, and I’ll eat red meat tomorrow. My roommate chugged a spinach smoothie right before she gave blood, and it worked!


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