How you can save a life in an hour or less
You are a good person. You pick up your trash at the playground, teach your kids to say thank you, and hold open doors for strangers. Making a difference in the world is something you want to do.
Did you know that you can change the world in less than an hour? What about save a life?
You don’t have to run into a burning building or start a non-profit to make the world a better place. You just have to sign up to donate blood in your community.
Donating Blood is important for the community
Every 2 seconds someone in the United States needs a blood transfusion, and blood banks nationwide are highly dependent on donors to help ensure their supply is well maintained. Blood cannot be manufactured in a lab, and yet each year only 10 percent of the eligible donor population donates blood annually.
Donated blood is used to help individuals who have been in an accident, are battling cancer, or have been born with a disease like sickle cell anemia. The average transfusion requires 3 pints of blood – meaning at least 3 people need to donate to save one life. While most donors are eligible to donate once every 8 weeks, few individuals do, leaving hospitals in dire need of blood donations to fulfill their daily need.
You don’t have to wait for a blood drive in your neighborhood to sign up to donate blood. Most communities have a local blood bank with stationary offices that operate year round. If you’ve never donated blood, this is a great way to support your community and give back with the hope that you or your loved ones will never be in a situation where they need a blood donation and cannot receive one.
What to expect from your blood donation experience
When you arrive at the donation center you may be asked to provide a legal form of identification. This is to ensure that your records are tracked appropriately and you are who you say you are.
The donation center staff will provide a confidential questionnaire that you need to complete before the donation process starts. The questionnaire will ask:
- Basic medical questions (When did you last take an aspirin? Are you on an antibiotic?)
- Travel history (Some trips require you wait a few months before making a donation.)
- When was your last piercing or tattoo.
The staff will then take you into a private room where they will review the information you provided in the questionnaire. During this time they will also take your temperature, test your hemoglobin levels (iron levels), and take your blood pressure. All of these steps are required to ensure that you are healthy enough to donate blood.
Blood donations can pass certain illnesses along to those who receive the donation. Even a simple virus can be deadly when someone is already in need of a blood transfusion, so don’t risk donating blood if you have a cold.
Once your full medical workup is complete, you will be asked back into the donation area.
The actual donation process will take no more than 15 minutes. A phlebotomist will use a sterile needle to attach a donation bag to your arm (usually you get to select which arm) and provide a soft ball for you to squeeze as the blood fills into the bag. The bag sits on a scale and will make a sound when enough blood has been collected.
The phlebotomist will return and remove the needle and bandage your arm. The bandage should stay on your arm for at least an hour after the donation.
You may feel light headed after a donation. The staff at the donation center are trained to recognize when a donor is not feeling well and may not allow you to stand up right away.
Following your donation you will be given water, juice, a snack and observed. The donation staff want to make sure that there’s no chance that you are going to faint before you leave their care.
The donation center will then fully test the blood you donated and determine what hospital it should be provided to. For blood to be used in an infant transfusion your blood is tested for certain antibodies related to types of flu. If you have never been exposed to those specific strains of flu, you can save the lives of babies. Even if you aren’t saving babies your blood will still go to someone who needs it very much.
It’s just that easy to save lives! The Red Cross can help you find a donation center near you so you can get started donating today.
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