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On this Day Nothing But the Blood

On this day in 1937, physician Bernard Fantus coined the word “blood bank” by establishing the first one at Cook County Hospital in Chicago. Four years earlier, Fantus had received an award from the American Therapeutic Association for developing more palatable blends of cod liver oil and castor oil, making him the hero of children everywhere.

Blood science took quantum leaps at the turn of the  20th century. In 1901, an Austrian doctor named Karl Landsteiner identified different blood types and classified them as A, B and C (later renamed to O). Landsteiner’s discovery solved a problem that had vexed doctors for some time—that mixing two different types of blood resulted in clumping, which usually led to serious complications. Six years later, Dr. Reuben Ottenberg performed the first blood transfusion using cross-matching. By the time World War I was over, long-term anticoagulants had been developed. Soon after World War II, the American Association of Blood Banks was organized to develop standards of practice for blood banks.

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Two thousand years ago, a type of blood was given that needed no lab tests for compatibility. It was the perfect match for all people, giving life to anyone who would submit to the transfusion.

That blood still flows. Christ opens his sacred veins to all who bleed from spiritual wounds. For those dying of bitterness, his blood supplies the power to forgive. For those sick from self-condemnation, his blood restores a sense of precious worth. The blood of Jesus, freely shed, reminds those who are susceptible to smugness that not even the most pious church member can earn amazing grace.

Christ is God’s blood bank. His blood is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, year in and year out. There is never a shortage. There are no substitutions. For true life and cleansing of sin, there is, indeed, “nothing but the blood!”

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