BY ROSA PRESTON
Okay, I know this story is a little late, but I think in reality, it isn’t. Blood donors can donate about six times a year, and 13.6 million units of whole blood and red blood cells are collected each year. And all that blood is going to those who need it. It’s a good feeling to know you’re giving something to someone in need, but even if you know the cause, if you’re a first time donor, the process is still a bit nerve wracking. So for all you first time donors who may donate blood in the future, here’s what you should know from my personal experience (and maybe a little research).
First things first, preparation. If you’re under 18, you’ll have to get parental consent to donate blood. Once your mom and dad (or just one of them) has given you the okay, there are certain things you need to eat or drink in the afternoon and evening before donating blood.As someone who is practically addicted to soda, I had to increase my water intake. Salty snacks were also a bit of a challenge, but luckily we have things like popcorn and pretzels at our local QuikTrip. “AHH BUT ROSA! Snacks aren’t good for you! EAT AN APPLE!” I hear some of you saying. Yes I know, normally salty snacks aren’t great for you, but in this case, salty snacks will help with fluid retention, ergo increasing blood flow, which, and this is a wild guess, will help with the donation process. And of course, especially since I was donating at school, getting a good night’s sleep was just as important.
Now, here’s what to expect during the process. Whether you’re doing it at school or at a doctor’s office, you’ll need to prepare to show your ID, and there are certain questions you’ll have to answer to test your eligibility, because things such as hepatitis or HIV (because supposedly a teenager with no romantic life may have that) could impair your ability to donate. Then you’ll be given a short health exam, including a finger stick to test blood iron (which may bleed longer than the actual donation), and ask more questions regarding your health prior to the donation. If you meet the screening and health requirements, you’ll be directed to a bed. I think you have an idea what’s going to happen here. A phlebotomist will clean your arm, and then poke you with a straw, which while painful, helps them track which way your veins go so they know where to insert the needle. Then they’ll use a blood donating kit to draw blood from a vein on the sterilized arm. About a unit of blood (a pint) of blood will be drawn, which will take about six to ten minutes, plenty of time to watch Cookie Swirl C (don’t ask).
And now for the grand finale! After the needle is removed, you’ll need to keep your arm above your head and apply pressure to the insertion site so your blood clots. I was a little bit uneasy, but that’s more because I had just seen about a pint of blood lead my body, but symptoms such as dizziness or nausea should be informed to the doctor, and monitored depending on how bad. Depending on how you feel (and if you’re at school or a doctor’s office), you may be able to head to a cafe and eat a little something. Lucky for me, I didn’t miss lunch, and I even scored an extra cookie. It’s good to relax for about ten minutes to replenish and rest until you’re strong enough to leave, which sadly I didn’t really get to do because I dropped my free coke. Afterwards, for the next 24 hours, you should eat well balanced meals, and stay hydrated.
After the whole process, you’ll officially be a blood donor. And just days after writing this, an ID Card containing my donor number and blood type was mailed to me. Not to mention, my blood is now in special care so that it can go to hospitals, to patients who need it. And it’s a prideful thing. Only 2% of the community donated blood, which makes all donors amazing. And if you want to help out again, TOO BAD, you have to wait another 56 days until you can donate again.