magine this: You are driving down the road with your significant other, on the way to a fantastic romantic dinner. The two of you are enjoying a wonderful conversation about your future together, and all that you have planned. There is a traffic light coming up, you are okay to go through, so you continue. However, the vehicle to the right of you does not obey his red light, and comes barreling right at your car. BAM! You blink, and you are covered in blood-losing it quickly from a large injury resulting from the collision. Now, you are in the hospital, and you must receive a blood transfusion, or you face death. Thankfully, your partner is able to donate for you. So much for the romantic dinner, right?
Now, imagine that you were not able to receive that transfusion because of the low blood supply…and because your partner’s blood type was incompatible. You would have come to the end of your road there, all because someone ran a red light, and no one took the time to donate blood. Donating blood is important because each donation of one pint can save up to three lives.
Yet, as of 2001, according to the American Red Cross, only 5% of eligible Americans donate. Why is this? What can you do to help solve this problem? Quite simply, you can donate up to 6 times a year-every 56 days, or 8 weeks. So, what is the big deal about donating blood? Are you scared of needles? You don’t think you have time? That is no excuse! If you have a tattoo or body piercing, chances are you have felt more pain from that procedure than you ever will from a donation.
The actual blood donation part takes about 10 minutes…and the pinch of the needle only lasts a second. The rest of your hour is spent during registration taking personal information, health records, etc., that are all kept in confidentiality for your safety as well as others. All blood donations use sterile needles, which are used one time by a donor and replaced after each donation. An hour every two months is all it takes to ensure that the newborn baby with heart complications or the new mother who lost a lot of blood in the emergency cesarean section can survive.
The fact is, every two seconds, someone in America needs blood-some patients need regular transfusions to survive… some are going through surgery, and some come in from accidents like the one used in the opening of this essay.You may be thinking, “If I donate, what do I get? It seems like a lot of blood to lose.” Honestly, the human body carries an average of 10 to 12 pints of blood, and the pint you donate will replace itself within 24 hours. What you get out of the deal is the satisfaction of knowing that you are doing your part to help save lives… and free juice and cookies to help keep yourself sustained, should you become dizzy. Plus, there’s the added bonus of no heavy lifting while you wear the bandage. Go ahead; wear it as long as you want!
Donating blood will also help you answer a question that many of us never think we should know the answer to… our own blood types. Referring once again to the scenario presented at the opening, you weren’t incapacitated; so, you would have been able to say, “I know I am O+!” After your first donation, you will receive a card in the mail with your name and blood type to carry with your ID-and should you ever become incapacitated, the answer lies right there with whom you are! Your blood will also be tested for things like HIV, hepatitis, syphilis, and other factors that could harm others, should they receive your blood. You will be notified of anything that shows up that could prove harmful to you….which is just another way of insuring that you are healthy!
Now you’re thinking, “I’m just one person. How am I going to solve such a huge problem? I have a common blood type, I’m sure plenty of other people can pull my weight” and there are some of you thinking, “I have a rare blood type, so it shouldn’t be needed as much…. I’ll wait until they call me for the shortage.”The reason the problem is not solved is that if everyone has that same opinion, no one donates because they all think that everyone else is doing it.
No matter how common your blood type-it is always in need. In fact, the universal blood type, O- is often given to people before their blood type is known, in emergencies, because everyone can accept it. However, only 7% of the U.S. population is O-. The math just doesn’t add up. Another disturbing fact is that only 32% of first time donors come back for a second time. This is most of the time due to the fact that they just can’t find the time, or they forget when they can again. We have to work together to break this trend!
If you began donating at age 17 when you first became eligible, and continued to donate on a regular schedule of 6 times a year until age 76, you would have donated 48 gallons of blood… enough to potentially save over 1000 lives in your lifetime! There are some requirements that must be met in order to be an active donor. Well, 60% of the American population is eligible. If you are 17 or older, and weigh at least 110 pounds, and are in good health, you are eligible.
Of course, there are those of us with different circumstances… those who are pregnant, who just went for that awesome tattoo/body piercing, or went on a vacation overseas. You will have to wait a little while-from 6 weeks to a year depending on the situation, before you can donate. If you have a condition that prohibits you from donating all together, here are some things that you can do to help:
- Organize/Sponsor a blood drive at your school, church, or workplace. Recruit healthy people that you know can donate.
- Volunteer at your local Red Cross center to help with other issues.
Please begin donating blood as soon as you eligible, and continue to do so as often as you can. You never know when you may be the one in need!
Life comes at us all very fast, and cannot be predicted. Call your local red cross to schedule an appointment today! If you want to learn more, please visit givelife.org. This is the official site for the American Red Cross Blood Donation Division, and is the source of all the statistical facts I presented you with today.