Sweden started texting blood donors with a special message to keep them coming back. It's working.

The phrase "blood donation" has a way of making us cringe.

Whether that's because we're scared of needles or it makes us think of those relentless Red Cross phone calls, many of us don't donate nearly as often as we should.

When we do finally cave in and donate, it's often an unmemorable, if mildly rewarding, experience. We might get a free soda and a sticker that says "Be nice to me, I gave blood today." But that's about it.


Hope you're not squeamish. Photo by Wasin Waeosri/Flickr.

And then we're quickly ushered out of the room and sent on our way. Our blood, capped in vials and shipped off to some warehouse, or distributor, or something. We don't know.

The only time we're ever updated is when there have been too many donations following a huge disaster and we're urged to contribute in some other way.

Way to make us feel loved!

But what if we could actually see, in real-time, when our blood donation makes an impact?

What if we could see the face of someone whose life we helped save? Or even just know that our donation was eventually pulled off the shelf and thrust into action because someone needed it?

We might feel more comfortable donating if we knew where our blood was going.

Well, in Sweden, blood donors now get a text message when a patient receives their blood.

Sweden's blood donation service has been slowly rolling out an initiative over the past three years that aims to re-engage donors by sending them a quick note when their donation helps a person in need.

That way, donors get more than a little token appreciation.

They get to know that their good deed is actually making a difference.

Loose translation of second message: "Thank you! The blood you donated on January 13, 2015, has now been beneficial for another patient. Sincerely, The Blood Central."

This is just the latest effort to combat falling blood donation rates around the globe.

Historically, many donation centers have relied on cash rewards to get people to give.

But the World Health Organization has made it pretty clear that one of its primary missions is to achieve 100% voluntary donations in order to maintain a safe blood supply (though recently the wisdom of this goal has been called into question).

That means nonprofit organizations that collect blood are looking for alternative incentives.

Some have tried financially iffy offers, like gift certificates and movie tickets. In some places, people can get a paid vacation day from work in order to go give blood. Switzerland even tried giving away lottery tickets.

Others have tried to entice donors with a free health screening, with cholesterol tests often being the main attraction.

We're lucky — back in the day, no one gave us jack squat to donate blood. And we liked it. Image via Thinkstock.

So far, Sweden's text message program for blood donors seems to be working.

According to Karolina Blom Wilberg, communications manager at the Stockholm blood service:

“We get a lot of visibility in social media and traditional media thanks to the SMS. But above all we believe it makes our donors come back to us, and donate again."

They're still waiting on the hard numbers to tell us whether this SMS system has made a difference and whether the influx of creative donation incentives will be able buck the trend.

But in the meantime, this program has people all over the world talking and bringing attention to an issue that desperately needs it.

Let's hope it catches on elsewhere.

It's one thing to see a little kid skateboarding. It's another to see a stereotype-defying little girl skateboarding. And it's entirely another to see Paige Tobin.

Paige is a 6-year-old skateboarding wonder from Australia. A recent video of her dropping into a 12-foot bowl on her has gone viral, both for the feat itself and for the style with which she does it. Decked out in a pink party dress, a leopard-print helmet, and rainbow socks, she looks nothing like you'd expect a skater dropping into a 12-foot bowl to look. And yet, here she is, blowing people's minds all over the place.

For those who may not fully appreciate the impressiveness of this feat, here's some perspective. My adrenaline junkie brother, who has been skateboarding since childhood and who races down rugged mountain faces on a bike for fun, shared this video and commented, "If I dropped in to a bowl twice as deep as my age it would be my first and last time doing so...this fearless kid has a bright future!"

It's scarier than it looks, and it looks pretty darn scary.

Paige doesn't always dress like a princess when she skates, not that it matters. Her talent and skill with the board are what gets people's attention. (The rainbow socks are kind of her signature, however.)

Her Instagram feed is filled with photos and videos of her skateboarding and surfing, and the body coordination she's gained at such a young age is truly something.

Here she was at three years old:

And here she is at age four:


So, if she dropped into a 6-foot bowl at age three and a 12-foot bowl at age six—is there such a thing as an 18-foot bowl for her to tackle when she's nine?

Paige clearly enjoys skating and has high ambitions in the skating world. "I want to go to the Olympics, and I want to be a pro skater," she told Power of Positivity when she was five. She already seems to be well on her way toward that goal.

How did she get so good? Well, Paige's mom gave her a skateboard when she wasn't even preschool age yet, and she loved it. Her mom got her lessons, and she's spent the past three years skating almost daily. She practices at local skate parks and competes in local competitions.

She also naturally has her fair share of spills, some of which you can see on her Instagram channel. Falling is part of the sport—you can't learn if you don't fall. Conquering the fear of falling is the key, and the thing that's hardest for most people to get over.

Perhaps Paige started too young to let fear override her desire to skate. Perhaps she's been taught to manage her fears, or maybe she's just naturally less afraid than other people. Or maybe there's something magical about the rainbow socks. Whatever it is, it's clear that this girl doesn't let fear get in the way of her doing what she wants to do. An admirable quality in anyone, but particularly striking to see in someone so young.

Way to go, Paige. Your perseverance and courage are inspiring, as is your unique fashion sense. Can't wait to see what you do next.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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