When I was young I was in a car accident and needed a blood transfusion. Today I try to pay it forward by donating blood to help others in need.
The first time I decided to donate blood I was in college, and was looking forward to the free t-shirt and bonus points for my favorite organization. I was also very nervous about the experience. I am not going to tell you each time I donate blood it is a walk in the park. I have large veins which are easy for the phlebotomist to find, but that also means I tend to donate quickly, which can leave me light headed and nauseous. Once I discovered my donation works best when I am laying flat and not squeezing the ball, the process became much easier on me. Because of my love for international travel I have also had periods of my life where I am ineligible to donate because of time restrictions against a certain country or because of an immunization I received. To date, my travels have not permanently prohibited me from donating. Check into some other restrictions that may defer you from being an eligible donor (age, weight, tattoos, lifestyle choices, etc.).
I am an O-, only 8% of Caucasians are! O blood types are also universal donors, meaning any other blood type can receive my blood. This particular blood donation facility opens at 6:30 am, which is great for my schedule. So I made an early appointment. I recommend a big glass of water and a snack before donating. Also, if you know you will be making a donation, try to increase the amount of foods high in iron that you are consuming (beef is an excellent source, as are leafy greens and legumes).
When I got to the facility we went through my check in, which includes a trained professional collecting my temperature, pulse, blood pressure, and hemoglobin and iron (via fingerstick) – this is where a diet high in iron becomes important. If you are in good health, you should not have a problem with these pre-tests. You will also be asked a series of questions about your health and medications, these questions should be taken seriously as you are donating for other people. A blood donation should not be a place where you are trying to get blood test results for yourself.
Once you are comfortably seated in a chair, your arm is thoroughly cleaned with iodine. I do not like to watch them insert the needle, so I look away. I can handle animal blood and blood from others all day, but am not a fan of seeing my own.
The process is usually pretty quick, about 10-15 minutes (allow yourself about 1 hour from check-in to check-out). They fill a couple of little test tubes for preliminary testing of your blood to ensure you are healthy, and then they just take a pint! One pint can save up to three lives!
I encourage you to check into donating blood if you are able and willing. Most people say they never volunteer to do something because they are not asked, today I ask you to please think of becoming a blood donor. Your generosity could be the key to saving lives – it saved my life!
If you want more information about blood donation some great resources are:
The American Red Cross Blood or the Nebraska Community Blood Bank.