Donate Blood

Every year, my high school hosted an American Red Cross blood drive for the faculty and eligible students. My junior year, I just made the birthday cutoff and was handed a registration card to schedule my appointment. I looked at it and froze.

Sure, I liked the whole idea behind giving blood and saving lives, but, like many people, I was intimidated by the thought of a needle in my arm.

I chickened out and let my mom give me the excuse that I shouldn’t give blood, because I was too close to the minimum weight. Instead of donating, I worked the “snack table,” handing out juice and cookies (and maybe consuming some as well). I noticed that no one who came to me for their post-donation snack looked like they were about to faint or vomit, which I took to be good signs.

I promised myself that I would be brave enough to donate the next year.

I did donate then, in a process that was a lot less scary than I thought it would be. There was a quick pinch of the needle in my arm, but then I didn’t even feel it. I’ve been a faithful donor ever since, trying to schedule donation appointments every 56 days- the time required between each donation so the body can fully replenish the pint of blood donated.

One day, while I was waiting to donate in a church basement, or community center, or fire station (The locations all kind of run together after a while.), I heard a woman say she has given blood every 56 days since she was 17, with a few exceptions for sicknesses. She was 72 years old.

Let’s do some quick math. Donors can give blood six times per year. So in the approximately 55 years the woman has been an active blood donor, she has donated about 330 times. One blood donation can save up to three lives. So this one woman has saved almost 1,000 lives.

This sounds like a lot, and it is, but more than 38,000 donations are needed every day, according to the American Red Cross. Every two seconds, someone in the United States needs blood. A car accident victim alone may need as many as 100 pints.

Imagine if every potential blood donor followed the example of the woman I met. It would end blood shortages and save millions of lives.

Eligible donors must be healthy and weigh at least 110 pounds. Needle apprehension does not have to stop you from helping others. The Red Cross recommends moral support and distractions, like listening to music, for those who are needle shy.

But people who feel faint at the sight of needles or are ineligible to give blood can volunteer to help advertise or run blood drives, so there are many ways to get involved in this life-saving process.

One reason I got involved with the campus’ American Red Cross Club is to increase the number of blood donors and volunteers at our many drives throughout the year.

Donation is easy and only takes about an hour from registration to refreshments. Unlike other types of donations, it doesn’t involve buying anything, making it perfect for struggling college students. If something so simple can save so many lives, why aren’t more people donating?

Most of us will never get the opportunity to save someone from the path of a speeding Metro train or rescue someone from drowning in the Chesapeake Bay, but we all have the potential to be heroes to those in need of our life-saving blood donations.

— Michaelle Bond

University of Maryland Junior

American Red Cross Club Public Relations Officer

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