Currently only 3 out of every 100 people in America donate blood.

I donated blood for the first time when I was 22.  My best friend was organizing a Blood Drive and she talked me into donating, even though I was terrified, and not at all interested.  Everything went fine, I was eligible, there were no problems or issues, and I was able to donate.  I quickly patted myself on the back and went on with my week.

4 months later, she organized another Blood Drive and asked me to donate again.  I think she even emailed me pictures of sick children who needed blood.  She’s pretty convincing.  The sick kids won me over, and I donated blood for the second time in my life.

Since then, I have donated off and on (breaking for a pregnancy and nursing). I have always had a positive experience and felt great after donating! A couple weeks ago, the University where I work was participating in the Cesar E. Chavez Blood Drive Challenge, where the goal was to get 250 universities and 25,000 donors to donate on the same day.  It had been over a year since I last donated, so I signed up.

Up to this point, I hadn’t given much thought into how donating blood really affects me and the people who receive it.  I decided I wanted to do a little research and write a post about it.  And hopefully inspire some people to donate in the process 🙂

Save a Life

Qualifications for donating:

  • Must be 16-17 years or older (depending on what state you’re donating in)
  • Must be over 110 pounds
  • Must pass the vital signs and health history exam

What You Can Expect

If you’ve never donated blood before, and you’re a little leery of the process, you’re not alone.  Here is what happens during a typical blood donation:

  1. First, you want to make sure you’re well hydrated, you’ve had a healthy breakfast, and you’re in good health.  More information here
  2. When you show up to your donation, you will start by registering and answering several health history questions.  Then you will be given a mini physical, which consists of checking your blood pressure and iron levels.  The iron level test is a tiny prick on the tip of your finger where a small blood sample is taken.
  3. Once you’ve cleared the healthy history and mini physical, you will get set up to donate.  You’re placed in a comfortable chair, and a phlebotomist will cleanse your arm (you choose which one you want) for 30 seconds, then they start the donation by inserting a new sterile needle.  It has a quick pinch, but after that it’s virtually painless.  The donation takes, on average, 8-10 minutes.  Once the donation is done, you will have a bandage wrapped around your arm for the next 3-4 hours.
  4. After the donation, you should be provided with a drink and a snack, and you’re told to take it easy for the rest of the day. No heavy lifting or straining the arm.

That’s it! It usually takes about 30 minutes for the whole process, and you will have just saved a life!

What happens to the blood:

Every unit of blood collected is tested for Chagas disease, Hepatitis B virus, Hepatitis C virus, Human Immunodeficiency Viruses Types 1 and 2 (HIV), Human T-Lymphotropic Virus, Syphilis, and West Nile Virus.  That way the recipient is not receiving blood that can harm them.  Once the blood is determined to be safe, it is separated into components: Red Cells, White Cells, Plasma & Platelets.  These blood components are made available to Hospitals and Nursing Homes.  Your blood can be used to help save the lives of people in surgeries, help burn victims recover, and help save the lives of cancer patients.

One donation can save up to 4 lives.

About blood types:

As you may already know, there are 8 different blood types. Not everyone can receive or give to all blood types. One great benefit of donating blood is that after testing, most Blood Services will tell you what blood type you are.

Blood types

Who are you saving?

“Two weeks after my beautiful baby girl was born, I had complications. While I was being treated at the hospital, the doctor came and told my husband in the waiting room that it was a “grave situation and she might not make it.  My husband was almost left without a wife and my little girl without a mother. The blood that I received that day saved my life. I wish I could personally thank each person who selflessly donated the blood I received. It really does saves lives. It saved mine.” – Michelle1

“Isabella was born at 32 weeks, profoundly anemic with a hemoglobin of 2.2. She had stopped moving and I knew something wrong. I went to the hospital and they quickly agreed with me that something was seriously wrong. She was born that morning, August 23, 2009 by emergency C section. She was pale… white as a ghost, actually.  The doctors were gravely concerned since she had lost almost half of her blood volume due to a hemorrhage in utero.  However, as soon as they gave her blood….lots of it, and platelets, she stabilized and turned pink!! She is now a happy, healthy 2 year old and we could never thank the blood donors who saved her life!!!!” – Danielle1

“My 5 year old niece was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in October 2010.  Her first blood transfusion was horrifying!  Myself, being an O neg blood type, wanted to immediately give her my blood; however, I was told it would take too long.  My niece has had at least one dozen blood transfusions in the 8 months of her treatment.  I am planning on donating blood tomorrow at a fundraiser.  I just want to thank everyone that has donated blood!  There are so many families that benefit!” – Cristen1

Benefits of Donating Blood:

In addition to saving lives, there are some great personal benefits you will receive from donating.

  • Iron Reduction: Donating blood can help reduce excess levels of iron in the blood. High levels of iron can lead to increased risk for cardiovascular disease.
  • Health Screening: Before donating, you get a mini physical, checking things such as pulse, blood pressure, body temperature, cholesterol and hemoglobin levels.

Find the hero in you

Where to Donate:

  • United Blood Services: A nonprofit community blood center that provides blood and blood products for local area hospitals throughout the United States.  They are located in 18 states in the west. United Blood Services has been saving lives since 1943.
  • American Red Cross: The largest single supplier of blood and blood products in the United States, collecting and processing more than 40 percent of the blood supply and distributing it to some 3,000 hospitals and transfusion centers nationwide.

Have you donated blood, or known someone who has received donor blood? I would love to hear your story!

Please share in comments.

All material on this website is provided for your information only and may not be construed as medical advice or instruction. Posts may contain affiliate links, which helps me buy supplies to make more great posts to share! Please see my Disclaimer Section for additional information.
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