I remember the first time I gave blood; it was my freshman year of college and I was quietly waiting for a friend to finish and texting my family on my super awesome TracFone, which cost me .5 units per text. The blood drive was finishing up and a nurse came out to ask me if I was waiting. I assured her that there was no way I was going to give blood and that I passed out at the sight of it (a problem for about 2-5% of people). She said that if I could make it through, I would save three lives.
That’s when the guilt set in.
It was a good guilt. I needed to feel obligated to do it. Because sometimes I forget that just because a problem isn’t staring me in the face doesn’t mean it’s not a very serious problem that I can help alleviate. I continued to give blood when blood-sucking events were being held at my school and struggled each and every time. When I graduated, there was a sense of relief surrounding how inconvenient it was to donate now that nurses wouldn’t just come to my house and line up with needles. But then I got a job with a hospital system that has very well-organized donation days in my business unit every single quarter.
That’s once every 3 months that I have to attempt not to completely pass out.
I heard a rumor once that if you pass out while giving blood, they can’t use it. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I use it as a sort of endurance test for me. I can either hang in there and make the pain and awfulness worth it by saving three lives, or I can give up like a little pansy and succumb to the sweating and lightheadedness all for naught.
Today I did really well. Like, seriously well. I barely even sweated, and that’s huge for me.
So here’s the thing: You should donate blood. Really, you should. There are lots of perfectly healthy, perfectly lovely people wandering around and not donating blood while there are lots of unhealthy people in hospitals in need. Blood banks are pressed for supply so they offer gift card incentives, cholesterol screenings, and some workplaces even offer Paid Time Off Incentives for their employees because people need blood.
Do you understand what that means? It means that people are suffering and in need of blood in order to get well and live and not only can you help three of those folks in one donation, but you get gift cards and a host of other incentives while you do it. You can even go to some places and get cold, hard cash.
So why aren’t you doing it?
This morning when I went to donate, there were several empty cots and no one in the hallway. My coworker and I were the only ones there. I think that’s unfortunate. You don’t have to do it quarterly, although you can. Trust me: if I can go ice cold, pale, and sweat until I’m on the brink of passing out and still make it through, you’re going to be fine.
So hey: it’s World AIDS day. Consider making a life-saving appointment today. It can be your good deed of 2011. ♣Sidenote: Did you know that if you identify as a male that has ever had sex with another male, you are ineligible to donate? Even though blood is tested for HIV before being accepted, plenty of healthy, uninfected homosexual males are turned away for donation. It wasn’t until November of this year that the UK lifted their ban. Consider raising your voice for the U.S. to do the same.