Let’s talk about everybody’s favorite subjects.
My blood type is B positive. It’s easy to remember because it’s basically my outlook on life as well as my blood type. But why do I even know my blood type? Because when I was in college, I began donating blood. When I received my registered donor card in the mail, there it was, on the bottom of the card — my blood type. Twenty years later, I can remember my blood type and I am still giving blood regularly.
At my last donation, there was a minor problem with my vein. As the staff person worked to right the needle, I looked away from what he was doing because, honestly, I don’t really like needles and definitely don’t like them when they are in me. I started looking around the room and what I saw inspired me (for that day but also for this article). This is a donation that is quite literally one of the most impactful acts of giving that I will make — I was literally saving a life, three of them maybe. So was the gentleman in the chair next to me who was a retiree. And the woman behind me who was mom of two. And the young lady who came in with her mother to donate together. It took about an hour of my time, a bit of discomfort, and a bruise. But together we five saved the lives of up to 15 people.
Giving blood is not for everyone — that is true. There are criteria you have to meet. You have to be in good general health and feeling well on the day of the blood donation. You must be at least 17 years old. You must weigh at least 110 pounds. There are certain medications and many health conditions that prevent you from being able to give blood.
There are an estimated 38% of US adults who are eligible to donate. But only 10% actually do. The number one reason cited by people who don’t give blood are “Never thought about it” and “I don’t like needles.” My response to these points: I hope you are thinking about it now and my kids used to say they didn’t like broccoli but they tried it a couple of times, with cheese, with ranch dressing, with olive oil and salt, and now they love it.
We live in an age of life-saving technological advances. Donated blood is used for all types of medical procedures, from treatment of injury victims to chemotherapy patients to sickle cell patients. More than 41,000 donations are needed every day because every two second someone in the US needs blood. Blood cannot be manufactured — it can only come from donors.
The No. 1 reason donors say they give blood is because they “want to help others.”
If you have never donated, let me give you a preview. On the day of your donation, be sure to drink plenty of fluids and eat a light but balanced meal. You will need your donor card or your driver’s license. It’s also good to have at least the names of all the medications you are currently taking and maybe something to read. Other than that, it’s plug and play — you walk in and they do the rest.
The trained blood donation staff (Red Cross or LifeSouth are both popular in our area) will lead you step by step through the process. You will register, answer some questions about your health, have a mini health check-up (including checking your pulse, blood pressure, body temperature, and hemoglobin), and be set up in a comfortable reclining chair.
And it doesn’t matter if it’s your first time or your twenty-first time, it is their job to walk you through the process step each step of the way and they take their job seriously. Because the process is serious.
Sometimes it doesn’t go as easily as planned. My husband found out the first time he gave blood that he bleeds very quickly… and faints because of it. I bruise easily and this last time came away with a nice hematoma reminiscent of the shape of Florida. But the personnel at the blood drives are trained to keep you comfortable, safe, and calm.
If you are one of the lucky 38% that is eligible to give, let’s also be in the category of wanting to help others. Have you donated before but not recently? Find a blood drive in your area and recommit. Have you donated recently? Next time, find a friend to bring with you and make it a date. Have you never donated but are now thinking about it? Ask around and find a friend to go to one of the local blood drives. Did I mention that you also get tasty treats afterwards? So that’s a bonus (but it might be hard to decide between Mini Fudge Stripes and Nutter Butters).
As the Red Cross tag line says, the need is constant and the gratification is instant.
Hosanna Fletcher has lived in Newton County since 2005. With a Masters in Public Health and another in Sociology, she has worked on a variety of community development projects, led training sessions for Lay Health Advisors, conducted and evaluated health risk assessments, and designed and implemented employee wellness programs. Hosanna and her husband Kevin, a Newton County native, have been married for 15 years this October. They have two children — Miranda, 11, and Thomas, 3.