The first time I gave blood was my senior year in high school. The American Red Cross came to my school gymnasium and set up their stations, creating screening areas with privacy walls and a square group of donation beds with volunteers and supplies in the center.
The process was pretty straightforward: prick the finger to test iron levels, take the screener to ensure you are healthy and eligible to give, quick arm stick, donate, then snacks!
I remember this well for a few reasons. One, I was doing something new that was an easy way to help others; and two, it was a school-sanctioned activity that got me out of class.
The last reason came a little later when I received my donor card in the mail. My blood type is O+. Most have heard that O- is the universal donor, but a lot of people don’t know that O+ is pretty important too. It’s a very common blood type across many ethnic groups.
I’ve been donating blood for nearly 15 years. The process hasn’t changed much, so you know what to expect when you get there. Part of my personal process is limiting caffeine and drinking extra water before the appointment, along with eating a well-balanced meal full of grains and protein.
There is one new process that has made a huge difference in my donation experience, the RapidPass®. RapidPass® is a pre-screening online feature that has helped to streamline the screening process, which is really helpful for me as a professional. Taking the screener the morning of my donation straight from my smartphone reduces wait time for me, and takes less time away from the actual donation! They also scan the screener results right from your smartphone or tablet to collect your answers, another time-saver!
One thing that I’m glad has not changed are the people involved in the donation process. I still get a little nervous right before the arm stick, but the discomfort only lasts a moment. The volunteers usually have some music going to help lighten any anxiety in the room. Plus they are all walking around checking on you, your donation, and each other. From check-in to snack time, the volunteers are completely dedicated to making sure you have a great experience.
I give blood because I want to help others. I give blood with the American Red Cross because I trust them to take care of me and my community.
For more information on blood donation, visit http://www.redcross.org/