A quick Google search is all that is needed to find out how much people dislike spiders, heights, the thought of public speaking, and even the idea of death. Another culprit of many people’s fears are needles: they hurt, and you are likely getting one because you are sick and need a shot or need to have blood drawn. I, too, dislike needles, but I have been able to mostly conquer my fear with the thought that having a tiny needle in my arm for about ten minutes can save up to three lives through blood donation.
My first time donating blood was my senior year of high school. I had tried to donate a few times before, but I was always just a little under the recommended weight limit, which I will explain a little later. I heard so many people enjoyed donating blood but I just didn’t get it. Why would anyone voluntarily get poked with a needle and get drained of blood? I thought we weren’t supposed to lose blood? Honestly, I ended up wandering to my high school gymnasium to donate blood in order to get out of my biology class. The thing is, we were learning about the cardiovascular system in class that day! While the rest of my class got to learn about blood, I was seeing first hand the benefits that donating blood has.
Blood donation is a quick, rewarding, and relatively painless process. There are many blood centers in most major cities with one of the most popular and well known being the American Red Cross. Both at my high school and at LMU, however, Medic Regional Blood Center is who facilitates blood donations throughout the year. Each center is a little different, but the process is usually very similar no matter where you go.
To ensure the safety of the donor and the recipient, those who are interested in donating blood need to meet certain requirements in order to donate. You must be at least 17 years old in most states, but in some states 16 -year-olds can donate with parental consent. You must weight at least 110 pounds if you are over 18 and 120 pounds if under 18. The most updated information can be obtained at this website. If you have ever had certain cancers or other medical conditions, have taken specific medications, or have recently traveled to certain countries, you may not be able to donate. A thorough list will be given to you in order to make the process easier. The most important requirement is that you must feel well. Donating with a cold is definitely not a good idea! If you meet the age, weight, and health requirements you are good to continue with the donation process!
When you go to donate blood, you need to bring proof of identification and know basic information about yourself like your social security number and address. While a technician is inputting your information into the computer system, you will normally need to drink a whole bottle of water. This is to ensure that you are well-hydrated and to help increase your blood volume. The more hydrated you are, the easier your blood can flow into the donation bag. This is probably the second hardest part of the donation process for me, believe it or not!
After your information is in the system, you will go to a private room or screened off area to answer health questions. This is probably the most boring part of the process- there’s a lot of questions that you need to answer, but it’s to ensure everyone’s safety in the process. You will be asked about your recent travel experiences, any drug or alcohol use, your sexual history, and medical history. This is to see if there is any possibility of you having any blood-borne illnesses or conditions like HIV or AIDS. Once the questions are done, your blood pressure and pulse are taken to see if your heart is healthy enough to donate. Finally, a tiny sample of blood is needed to determine if you are anemic- it’s a quick and easy process in which the technician pricks a finger (normally your ring finger), get a tiny bit of blood from it, and put it in a machine to determine if you are anemic. This is probably the worst part for me because fingers are a whole lot more sensitive than arms and the needle device that is used makes a kind of popping sound that always seems to make me jump! It’s always over before I realize what is happening, though, so it is definitely bearable.
Finally, the actual donation process begins! You will lie down on a kind of reclined chair or table that makes your blood flow a little easier. They’re actually really comfortable! The phlebotomist– the person who does your donation- will come and talk to you to explain the process and answer any questions they have. Once you are situated, they will let you know when they are about to put the needle in. If you are the kind of person who does not like to be told, they can do that for you, too! I don’t like to look at the needle going in, but I do like to be told when it will happen. The phlebotomists are incredibly understanding and are willing to help you in any way possible!
After the needle is in, the phlebotomist will give you a stress ball that you need to squeeze every few seconds. This is to keep the blood flowing and make the process go a little faster. The two times I’ve donated, the phlebotomist has always put a piece of gauze over the needle so I don’t see it. I’ve always appreciated it! I’ve found that not looking at the needle makes it a lot less painful; in fact, I’d rather donate blood than get a paper cut! Once the needle is in, all you need to do is sit back and relax for about ten minutes while your blood is being donated. Once you are finished, the phlebotomist comes back, takes out the needle, puts gauze where the needle was, and gives you instructions for the next 24 hours. This normally includes no strenuous activity for 24 hours, drinking plenty of water, and calling the blood donation center if you begin to feel sick. After donating, you will be given something to eat and drink to replenish your blood sugar level and help your body start the process of making more blood. After you finish these, you are good to go!
There are many different types of blood donation you can do. Take a look at the different kinds here.
Since my first time donating in high school, I have donated blood once during my time at LMU. The process is exactly the same, but condensed into a large bus that is parked in a central location around campus, normally around the Student Center. I plan on donating on campus every time Medic comes back on campus!
Just remember: giving your all is important at all times except when donating blood!
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