On Saturday January 16th, I gave blood at the American Red Cross (ARC) Blood Donation Center in Fairfax, VA. The first time I gave blood was on August 27, 2011. Since them I’ve donated 14 times with all but two times giving double red cells with whole blood given the remaining two times.
Why did I decide to give blood?
I honestly don’t remember all the reasons but definitely remember there being a special promotion where anybody who gave blood received a Redskins football game ticket. Before you judge me for being selfish, I gave the ticket up as a thank you gift to the Contest Master at my Toastmasters club’s fall contest. Plus I drove 40 minutes away and gave a donation of double red cells which took twice as long as a regular donation. So there :p
I may not remember exactly why I started to give blood, but I do know why I kept donating. I saw a documentary about the war in Jaffna in which I learned that during armed conflicts, doctors from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) would setup and operate hospitals in the war zone and provide assistance to those who were injured. I couldn’t believe it. I’d never want to enter a war zone…not for a million dollars. And here were people who cared enough to risk their lives to help others. I told myself the least I could do is give blood. Now, I realize that the ICRC and the ARC are different organizations, but the principle is still the same, they are willing to provide help in situations where most others would not venture.
During my interview at the first blood donation back in 2011 I was told that for my blood type, O+, they preferred to take double red cells instead of whole blood. It would take twice as long and was completely optional but I told them to take whatever would be most beneficial and if that was double red cells then double red cells it would be!
Out of the 14 times I donated blood, twice I had to settle for giving whole blood. This was because the Red Cross requires a higher amount of iron for accepting double red cells and at time I was a vegetarian who obviously wasn’t getting enough iron in my diet. The iron deficiency has since been taken care of…no thanks to my doctor who told me to “eat meat.” Quack 😝
One thing I learned that surprised me was that not everybody can give blood. There are a quite a few restrictions. For example:
- Individuals who lived in England during the Mad Cow Disease scare can’t give blood.
- People who get tattoos have to wait a year.
- People on certain medications can’t donate.
There are many more, but thankfully, I passed the test 🙂
I was then escorted to the donation center and sat down on a permanently reclined chair that looked like it could have been an old airline seat.
The actual blood donation took two cycles and about an hour in the chair…each time the machine extracted the blood cells and when it was done, the plasma and platelets were returned to me. During the extraction, I had to squeeze a toy (in this case shaped like a cylinder) every 3-5 seconds. Almost every time, everybody else who arrived at the same time or a little after I did would leave before me because they were donating whole blood. This time, there was a lady donating Platelets who not only arrived before me, but stayed after I left…that’s never happened before.
When the donation was all done, I went to the waiting area and got some snacks. They always have some cookies, pretzels, juice, and water. I normally take my time to read some magazines and chat with the staff but today I was in a hurry, so I ate quickly, drank the water, and grabbed an extra snack just in case.
All in all, I spend about two (2) hours at the Red Cross each time I give blood and will continue to do so as long as the Red Cross has a need. And they say Vegans don’t care about other human beings