Giving Blood, Saving Lives

My high school student council hosted a Red Cross Blood Drive each semester.  When I turned 16 I was so excited because I could give blood with parent permission.  I brought home the yellow sheet of paper for my parents to sign.  Their reaction to my request for permission was pure shock.  I wasn’t the most cooperative child when it came to medical type things.  I was a baby about getting scraped knees, cringing at the touch of hydrogen peroxide and always needing a Band-Aid.  When I had to start swallowing pills my parents had to mix them into my food and I would spit them back out.  I hated doctor visits and had to hold one of my parent’s hands when getting shots.  I’ve had to get my wisdom teeth out twice and the first time was so bad I nearly cried in the waiting room of the dentist’s office the second time.  So when I told my parents that I voluntarily wanted a garden hose jabbed in my arm to drain the blood right out of me, they were quite surprised.  

They had never given blood, but were proud of me for wanting to go through with it.  I wanted to have the chance at helping to heal someone or save a life.  So I brought my permission slip back and chose a time slot, one o’clock in the afternoon to be exact.  

A few days before the blood drive I began to drink more water than usual to stay hydrated. The day finally came and I was nervous, but excited.  I headed to the gym, signed in, drank some juice they handed me, and had to sit and wait.  And wait some more.  Then finally I had to go sit at a computer and answer some questions about traveling out of the country, diseases, etc.  Then I had to have my hemoglobin tested.  When I mentioned before that I’m kind of a baby, I meant it!  I hate getting my finger pricked.  My reading was too low.  The nurse said I could try one more time or was free to go.  My first thought came with a flood of relief.  I had tried but didn’t have to go through with it.  Then I decided if I didn’t do it now, maybe I never would, so I told her to prick me one more time.  The second time it was high enough.

So I climbed onto the big blue chair and the nurse asked me which arm I was going to use.  I was taking a cake decorating class that evening and decided I didn’t want to use my right arm to give blood.  Just in case it hurt, I wanted to be able to use my right hand to decorate with.  So the nurse cleaned my arm with the yellow gunk, drew a dot on my vein, and jabbed me.  It wasn’t so bad.  I thought “Wow I can really do this!”  I was squeezing a ball to keep the blood pumping and soon my arm began to ache.  When the nurse finally came back over to me she held up the bag of blood and it was only a fourth full, with no more pumping out.  She took the needle out and told me my vein had collapsed.  I must have been feeling brave because I asked her if she could poke me again or use my other arm.  Sadly (or rather thankfully) she said no.  

I had to sit, ice my arm, eat some food, and drink some water before they would let me leave.  It hurt to move or lift my arm.  I had to use my other hand to coax my arm into any new position.  By the time my cake decorating class was over my arm had a huge dark bruise.  My arm even hurt the next day.  

The following year the Red Cross had changed the weight requirements to give blood and I no longer qualified.  I was sad that I never got my chance at helping someone, but I still offered all my friends encouragement as they contemplated giving blood.

On November 2, 2011 my dad turned 40.  For him this meant a morning doubled over in pain before finally telling my mom to take him to the emergency room.  By the time they reached the hospital he could hardly move he was in so much pain.  It took several hours of testing before they could figure out what was wrong.  He had diverticulitis and his colon had ruptured (similar to a burst appendix).  So he was rushed into surgery.  His road to recovery was going to be a rather rough one.  He was worn out and incredibly sore with a rather large incision line.  He also had the discomfort of knowing he would have another surgery in 3 months that would put him back through the same recovery process.  

After witnessing the health issues and recoveries of loved ones, donating blood has become very important to me.  It doesn’t take much time, if there is pain it will eventually go away, and it could save lives.  


One thought on “Giving Blood, Saving Lives

  1. I had the exact same experience when donating blood for the first time, only I was a freshman at UNK. I was so excited to do my part and help out by donating blood. The same process of waiting, answering questions, and being tested occurred before they finally stuck the needle in. It was actually pretty painful for me because the nurse had so much trouble finding my vein. Then, after going through all of the pain of stabbing a needle in my arm over and over again, my vein decided to stop giving blood. So…it was all for nothing. I also was disappointed and the experience discouraged me from donating blood again but I have since then donated many times and continue to do so every couple of months. It’s amazing what a little pain and a pint of your blood can do to save lives!

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