Needles are awful, and although I’m a doctor’s daughter, seeing blood makes me woozy. Therefore, voluntarily giving blood via needle is not my idea of a great time, but through my do-gooder friends’ nagging, I decided to donate blood for the first time last year. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the process was much easier and more fun than it sounds. Here are six reasons why you should take a chance with it.
1. Everybody Needs Blood
Carlisle Cullen and his vampire family aren’t the only ones emptying blood donations from the shelves. Every two seconds, someone in the United States needs a blood transfusion. There is no medical substitute for human blood, so the only way patients can get transfusions is through others’ generosity. Fresh blood only has a 42-day shelf life, and only the rarest types are frozen because it is such an expensive process. In other words, the need is constant.
2. Blood Drives Come to You
(Photo courtesy of Cyanide and Happiness)
You can donate blood between classes. It’s very common for college campuses, particularly those with active Red Cross chapters, to host blood drives. The Red Cross’s search engine will tell you when and where local blood drives are being held; you can also check your campus event postings for them. My school always posts signs outside the student union when a blood drive is coming to campus.
3. Free Snacks
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Cookies and juice are standard issue for Red Cross blood donors. This is because donating a pint of blood drops your blood pressure, making dizziness a common side effect for donors. To prevent this, you’re asked to lie down, relax and eat cookies for about twenty minutes after giving blood. Also: endless juice. Sounds good, right?
4. It’s Completely Safe
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I can personally testify that blood drive volunteers take good care of you. An extensive health questionnaire and a few initial tests ensure that you’re in good physical condition to donate. The Red Cross website also offers tips on what to eat and drink beforehand to avoid dizzy spells. If you do have a bad reaction, they keep a close eye on you. When I donated blood, I almost passed out afterward, so they had me lie down for an extra half-hour (with, of course, extra cookies). I missed a class, but it was for a good cause.
5. Saving Lives is Awesome
(Photo courtesy of Elle Hill)
You don’t have to be Superman, Batman or even a veteran doctor to save lives. Just one blood donation can save up to three lives, because each pint of whole blood is separated into two or three of the four possible products (red blood cells, platelets, plasma and cryoprecipitate). Though you may be ready to pass out at any conversation about blood, getting through the process just once will make a huge difference.
6. You’ll Be in Good Company
(Photo courtesy of The Examiner)
Even celebrities like Miley Cyrus, Josh Duhamel and Jackie Chan donate. Most notably, the TV show Vampire Diaries teamed up with the Red Cross for a recent ad campaign. While you might not run into any celebrities at your local blood drive, it’s fun to go with a couple of friends. There’s a fair amount of waiting involved, so you’ll want a chat buddy. In fact, 15% of all blood donors are high school or college-aged, because the Red Cross has targeted a lot of their campaigns toward younger people. Donors used to be mainly World War II veterans, but by now they’re more likely to need blood donors themselves.
You can donate blood every 56 days (this gives your body time to replace what you lost). Since the whole process takes about an hour, it’s a simple way to make a difference. It’s not necessary to wait for a campus blood drive—check out the Red Cross’s website to see if there are any drives near you this summer.
Main photo from quickmeme.com