By Micah Anderson
Around one in seven people who enter a hospital will need blood or some form of blood products. That’s a lot of blood, and the only way hospitals can get all this blood is from us donors. But sadly too many hospitals are always dealing with shortages. They need all blood types from the most common types A or O positive, to the most uncommon, O negative. Many people either don’t give blood or don`t give blood often enough. Many of the fears we have about giving blood are often times only really in our head, or are stories about old medical practices. Yet, there are many advantages to giving blood.
I`ve given blood before and it isn`t that bad. I was under seventeen years of age the first time I donated, so when I went into the blood bank, I was with my mom and she signed all the forms allowing them to take my blood. After that I went with one of the techs to a small office to see if I was physically capable of giving blood. I answered all of their questions and signed all their forms. The tech then did some simple tests checking my blood. One of these tests confirmed my blood type to be O positive. They then set me in one of those big comfy reclining chairs, leaned me back and stuck a needle in my left arm. After waiting a few minutes, the tech told me the blood flow was slow and asked me if they could try the other arm. I said, “Sure.” Soon after, my mom left for work calling my dad to pick me up. I sat there eating McDonald’s cookies and drinking pop. Shortly after, my dad arrived to pick me up and, I did what the techs said and took it easy the rest of the day. Sure the wait kind of sucked and there was a small amount of discomfort but other than that I never really saw any big cons to giving blood. The only thing that I could possibly call a con was that I was kind of nervous to do it that first time.
It makes sense, as to why people fear giving blood because some of the most common fears we have are related to seeing blood, especially our own and the pain that often accompanies the wound. Giving blood is not so bad though since you`re not bleeding from a cut or injury. However, when people see the needle for the first time it seems huge to them and though the inserting of the needle does cause a little sting of discomfort, it’s similar to having your arm pinched. The rest of the time that it is there you can barely feel it. When they remove the needle there is a small degree of pain as well, similar to when they inserted the needle. The spot where they put the needle remains tender for the rest of the day and there can be a small bruise that stays around for a couple of days. However, your arm is encased in layers of gauze and tape right after you give blood to keep any additional bleeding from occurring. So the only really annoying thing about the whole ordeal would be all the paperwork and the amount of time the whole process takes. Still, it’s not like you just sit there and do nothing but focus on your arm. They do give you stuff to do to keep you occupied.
The blood bank has a lot of stuff to keep people calm as the machine takes their blood. They always have a lot of food since it’s important to keep your strength up. Back when I gave blood at Central High School, they went all out with boxes of pizza, bags of burgers, and loads of different drinks. I sat next to the machine that took my blood, eating and drinking until I was stuffed. They have flat screen TVs with headphones at the blood bank that are suspended off the ceiling. But if you want to bring along a book or something else to entertain yourself that is fine too. There is also the sense of doing something good for another person that comes along with giving blood. The only immediate danger there is while donating blood is if you pass out from seeing your own blood.
Blood is one of the most precious and naturally occurring resources that we have. It is vital to life and everyone produces it. The average healthy adult has about 4.7 to 5 liters of blood in their body. Not too long ago it was believed that removing blood was important for someone to beat an illness. It is documented in our own history that when George Washington was ill with a throat infection, doctors removed approximately 3.75 liters of blood over a ten hour period. He died shortly thereafter. We know today that blood is a vital component for life but when handled incorrectly can kill. That’s one of the reasons why when you donate blood the facility records when you donated blood and tells you when you can donate again.
Whole blood is a particularly helpful donation since it can help save up to three people. Blood has three main parts: the plasma, the platelets and of course the red blood cells. All three of these components can be used differently. Plasma is used in the body to maintain a normal pH level in the blood. Platelets help blood clot so when you do get a cut or scrape you will stop bleeding. The red blood cells are used to transfer oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. All three of these can be taken separately at the blood bank. Depending on your blood type, they may encourage you to donate one of these components instead of a whole blood donation. Yet whatever donations you choose to give will be gladly accepted.
Everyday people desperately need blood. You in fact may need some in your own life time. So, it is a good idea to donate blood so that people who need it can receive it. I do wonder why more people don`t donate. Yes, it takes a little bit of time but it’s not some big scary task. All you’re doing is sitting in a chair, watching TV and occasionally squeezing a plastic ball. It is a big thing you’re doing because it can save a life. Who knows, maybe someday it will be yours.
Photo attribution: “Thank you, anonymous donor.” by Brian on Flickr