Today I gave a pint of my blood to possibly help save three lives! It’s a great feeling and I highly recommend for everyone (as long as you’re eligible – check the Red Cross website for more specifics) to also give blood at least once in their lives. I love giving back (I’m one of only two student members on my school’s Annual Giving Board, I’m involved in other student organizations on campus which are focused on philanthropy, and outside of school I love coaching youth sports leagues, helping out at various different functions managed by my church – think food drives, homeless shelters, tutoring elementary school students and middle school students who are less privileged, and preparing meals to send to lower-income families. In general, I just love helping other people; and as you are all aware, donating blood also falls perfectly into this category of giving back and helping others.
In high school, this concept of giving blood became a reality when once a semester the American Red Cross would hold a blood drive, which students could get out of class to donate blood. I always envied the kids who would walk the hallways in between classes with the red wrap around their elbow, not because they got to skip a portion of a class, but because they were able to easily make a difference. In case you are unaware, the Red Cross has set specific guidelines on who can and cannot donate blood. The guidelines that held me back in high school from joining a majority of my peers, were you had to be at least sixteen years old (and needed a parent to sign the consent form until you turned seventeen), and you had to weigh over 115 pounds. According to the Red Cross website, you just have to weigh 110 pounds, however my school increased the weight restriction to avoid too many students (most who don’t eat a substantial breakfast) from passing out in the auditorium. Although 115 pounds doesn’t seem like a lot, I was always pretty thin, as you can recall from the pictures in one of my previous posts of me playing field hockey in high school.
After graduating from high school, and becoming ineligible to participate in the high school-run drive, the blood drives in my geographic region were never at a convenient time with my busy athletic schedule. It’s not recommended to donate blood the same day you complete a strenuous or physically challenging workout, practice or competition. This is because you donate a pint of blood, which is about 1/10th of all of your body’s blood and it takes roughly 12 hours to be physically okay to participate in a high-level workout. It’s even more challenging playing a sport in college because essentially you are competing or at least training year-round. My first donation was in January this year with my mom at a local church. It’s not bad at all, it’s super quick and you feel so awesome afterwards knowing that your blood can either directly save someone’s life or at least be used as research to help save countless lives in the future. My second blood donation was this morning; I documented my experience so I can share it with you all today!
Now that I’ve bored you all enough…. Onto the exciting part: P.S. (I don’t think that) The pictures aren’t gross or gory at all, however if blood or needles make you uncomfortable, this is your warning
Step 1: Hydrate. Make sure to drink plenty of water before you arrive to avoid feeling faint during the donation. This is me drinking from my school spirit Tervis tumbler (throwback to my goldfish Tervis… anyone remember it from the smoothie post?!)
Step 2: Arrive at your donation center. You can always make an appointment beforehand online or using the new Red Cross app, but if you’re having difficulty, there will always be signs to help you figure out exactly where to go.
Step 3: Sign in, wait in the little lobby of chairs that they have set up, and go back with a volunteer when they are ready for you. When they call you back, they’ll ask you basic questions about your height, weight, birthday, address, name and then health-related questions which you can find all of them on the Red Cross website. They will also take your pulse, your blood pressure, and prick your finger to quickly test your blood to double check that it is safe and healthy enough to be donated and for other people to use.
Step 4: They’ll lead you out of the private little cubicle you were previously in for Step 3 and onto one of the comfy black donation chairs. Once you’re here you can just literally sit back and relax while they just do their thing. In the pictures below, my arm is relaxed on the side arm-holder, my new friend Carl is prepping the blood bags for my donation, they gave me a stress ball to squeeze so they could mark the location of where to poke the needle into, and then they cleaned the inside of arm using iodine swabs.
Step 5: They take the blood! It doesn’t hurt and you don’t have to watch the needle go in your arm if you don’t want to. Here’s a snapchat of the first time I gave blood (don’t worry the needle is covered by a gauze pad). It’s taken me around six to eight minutes to collect a full pint of blood these past two times. I just squeeze the roll of paper towels or the stress ball every few seconds to help pump the blood out of your arm faster. After the pint bag is filled up, the Red Cross volunteers close off the tube and the pint bag and use the remainder of the blood in the small tube to fill up test tube looking containers. Then they put a gauze pad and a bandaid on the needle site and wrapped my arm with the red stretchy tape. You can also ask for water or juice to drink while you donate and can read a book, listen to music, or talk to the volunteers. It goes by so fast!
Step 6: After the actual donation is finished, they will make you wait around and sit and eat and drink something. I was on a Whole30 the first time I gave blood, so I couldn’t eat any of the snacks that they had, but I did drink a bottle of water. They usually have cranberry juice, apple juice, water, Famous Amos cookies, pretzels and sometimes sandwiches, other chips and other juices.
My future goals are donating double red blood cells (you have to weigh 150 pounds to do so, so unfortunately I don’t weigh enough right now) and also to donate a cumulative of one gallon of blood (eight total donations) – I’m a quarter of my way there!