On September 11, 2001, I was working in public relations for a hospital. One of my job responsibilities was marketing the services of the in-house blood bank.
On September 12, 2001, I helped with crowd control – the line to donate blood extended out the door of the blood donor center, and snaked way down the hall. People, who just wanted to do “something” in the wake of the 9/11 tragedy, waited for hours to donate. Misery was definitely loving company that day.
Sadly, that collected blood was not used to save the lives of 9/11 survivors … they were few and far between. The long lines were a good problem to have, but as time passed and the reality of the tragedy settled in, the lines disappeared, and blood banks across the nation would again begin to feel the pinch of not having enough donors to fill the need.
The reality is, every three seconds, someone needs blood and the demand today is greater than ever. Donated blood saves the lives of accident victims, those undergoing surgery and patients receiving treatment for cancer and other diseases. Although 50 percent of the population is eligible to give, only about five percent step up to the plate.
I’ve been a blood donor for years. I’m not sure what originally inspired me to become one. I do know it isn’t because I love needles, but I do value friendships.
Over the years, I’ve forged relationships with the nurses from my local blood bank who “stick me” every 56 days or so. I tend to do a better job relaxing when we chat about the kids, the weather, vacation or just “nonsense.”
Donating blood really is easy and painless!
1.) When you arrive to donate you fill out a health history form which takes about 5-10 minutes. Your answers are then reviewed by a nurse. (If you take any meds, be sure to bring along the list. There are some medications which prevent you from donating.)
2.) Next, it’s time for the “mini physical:” the nurse will check your pulse, prick your finger to assess your iron count (it doesn’t hurt, I swear) and take your blood pressure and temperature. The way I look at it, a free physical every two months isn’t so bad. AND, some blood donor centers will even run a free cholesterol screen when you donate. All you have to do is ask. Results arrive in the mail a week or so later.
3.) If you’ve been cleared to donate, you will spend 10 – 12 minutes in a comfortable reclining chair while blood is drawn from a vein in your arm into a bag. After a relatively painless pinch as the needle is inserted, I chatter with the staff or other donors to keep my mind occupied, and mind you, I never look at that needle in my arm!
4.) When you’re done and feel good enough to stand up, it’s time to check out the snacks! For me it’s pineapple juice and Lorna Doone cookies every time I donate. That tradition started years ago. Healthy options, too, are available, but I figure I deserve the treat!
5.) Feeling stronger after that small snack, it’s time to have your blood pressure checked, collect your donor appreciation coupons, t-shirt or other “tchotchke” and hit the pike, knowing that within a few days your blood, after a battery of tests to ensure it’s safe, will save someone’s life!
Due to a trip outside the country in November 2011, I’d been unable to donate for the past year. On Black Friday, I didn’t hit the mall; instead, I opted to pick-up where I left off with the friendly donor crew, so I showed up at my local blood donor center. Man, did I enjoy getting caught up with the staff (I missed a lot over a year’s time) and those Lorna Doones and pineapple juice sure hit the spot! I look forward to getting back on track as a “regular.”
January is National Volunteer Blood Donor month – I challenge each one of you to call your local hospital, blood donor center or show-up at a local community blood drive and donate …. Be a hero, save a life and donate blood….don’t let a 9/11 crisis be your only inspiration to give.
Not sure where to give? Check with your local hospital, Google blood donor centers, or check the newspaper for a list of community blood drives – often times, they are held at area churches or fire halls. Or, why not organize a drive at your workplace, like the one that was recently held at Susquehanna’s operations center in Lititz,PA. Thanks to our employees, the Central Penn Blood Mobile left with 30 units of blood.
Fast Facts About Blood Donation
There is no substitute for human blood.
O+ and A+ are the most common blood types and are most often needed.
Because O- is the “universal donor,” this blood type is frequently needed.
The average adult has 8 to 10 pints of blood.
You can donate one pint every eight weeks.
After donation, blood volume begins replacing itself within hours.
When separated into components, one unit of whole blood can save the lives of up to three people.
Whole blood has a shelf life of 42 days.
Ten tests are performed on every unit of donated blood.
To be eligible to donate blood a person must be 16, be in good health and weigh at least 110 pounds.
Each year about 14 million units of blood are donated in the United States by about 8 million volunteer donors. These units are transfused to as many as 4 million patients per year.
- Source: Lancaster General Health