Originally published in Chadds Ford Live.
When I was in high school, my sister and I would run home from the bus stop, throw our books down on the kitchen table and dash into the den to watch “Dark Shadows,” a soap opera about Barnabas Collins, a tormented vampire roaming the docks of 1795 Collinsport, Maine, looking for his next victim while seeking the face of his lost love Josette, and wanting nothing more than to become mortal. So when I’d hear of people donating blood, I’d shudder, imagining it would be like being attacked by a vampire and feeling your life grotesquely draining away. And then again there were those uh…needles.
Like many of you, I give to the American Red Cross whenever there’s a national disaster like a flood, hurricane or wildfire. But I’ve never considered donating blood — oh no, not me. Even when I go to the local lab to get my blood drawn to check my A1C and cholesterol, the tech always says, “I can’t find a vein. Maybe I better try your other arm.”
And then I go home with a bruise the size of Delaware inside my elbow.
A few weeks ago, I got an email from the American Red Cross about an emergency need for blood donations, indicating there was only a three-day supply of most blood types on hand. While our nation’s blood supplies have dropped precipitously as donors go on summer vacations – trauma, surgery, cancer, leukemia or sickle cell anemia patients don’t take vacations.
A Few Surprising Blood Facts
Only three percent of the population gives blood, but every two seconds someone in the United States needs it!
Blood can be safely donated every 56 days. Red blood cells have a shelf life of only 42 days.
Accidents and traumas are unpredictable, one accident victim can need many units of blood. During an emergency it’s the blood already on hospital shelves that helps save lives.
Donating Blood was Quick and Painless
So I took a deep breath, went online and clicked a time slot at the local Red Cross Donation Center in West Chester that was less than 10 minutes from our home. It’s tucked away in a little shopping center. Inside it was calm and peaceful. About ten or more people reclined on special chairs giving blood. No one looked the least bit distressed.
Most of your appointment is spent on a mini-physical which includes pulse, blood pressure, a quick blood hemoglobin test and a health history.
To save time, the health history can be done online the day of your appointment using RapidPass®. You will be asked about certain foreign countries where you may have lived, prescription and non-prescription drugs use as well as any unsafe practices that might put your blood at risk.
If you pass the health history and hemoglobin test, it’s on to your station.
Except for the brief pinch you feel when the needle goes in, the actual collecting of blood is totally painless and takes about eight minutes. Surprisingly, I was not one bit dizzy or unsteady when I got up.
After a few minutes at the snack table enjoying some cold cranberry juice and munching on a granola bar, I walked out to my car and drove home feeling no different, except for the knowledge that my pint of O Positive, or its components, would save more than one life.
And guess what…not one bit of bruising. What pros!
Now listen up all you good, red blooded people. No one would ever consider me brave. Hey – I’m scared of Ferris Wheels. Right now the Red Cross is experiencing an emergency need for blood donations and www.redcross.org/give-blood.html desperately needs you to donate blood now. If I can do it, so can you!