Giving Blood: My First Time

Front Page / Aug. 6, 2009 12:00am EDT

By Hannah Becker

Giving Blood: My First Time By Hannah Becker

Every year eight million Americans choose to donate blood. This past week I chose to become one of those everyday heroes when I donated blood for the first time.

I had wanted to donate blood since I turned 17, the legal age to donate in Vermont, but I had never been able to, due to my participation in high school athletics.

Last week when I received a call from the American Red Cross notifying me of a local blood drive, I decided that this time I was going to make it happen, I was going to give blood. My mom and I decided to go together, a mother-daughter team saving lives.

I was not nervous when I entered the Baptist Fellowship church on Route 66 where the blood drive was being held. I became a little nervous, however, when I began to read the 10-page packet explaining the process and precautions. But the gentle smiles of the staff reassured me of the good deed I was about to do.

The donating process takes about an hour between the registration, a brief medical screening, the blood collection—which takes about 10 minutes—plus time for refreshments in the canteen after the collection. I soared through registration, got through the medical screening relatively simply, and then walked into the collection room.

The room was set up with multiple donation chairs that look like lounge chairs popular at pools, a table with sandwiches and snacks, and a multitude of men and women in white coats. I still wasn’t nervous.

A nurse offered me a bottle of water and a chair to sit in. Because I was a first-time donor she explained to me that my head would be back and my feet would be up in order to keep my blood circulating. She prepared my arm for the insertion of the needle and made sure I was comfortable. I still wasn’t nervous.

Then she said, “This is the part where you can either watch or look away.” That’s when I became nervous.

As the nurse inserted the needle into my arm I felt a strong pinch and my arm ached for just a few seconds. I was no longer nervous.

I was given a ball to squeeze every five to ten seconds to keep my blood moving. I continued to squeeze my ball and drink my water. I was feeling good, and then just as I was about to finish and the nurse was taking the bag of blood from my arm, I became very dizzy and hot.

It happened all of a sudden and was very unexpected. I told the nurse I was feeling sick. She immediately had be lie all the way down and lifted my feet even higher. She put an ice pack on my neck and angled a fan at my heated body. The nursing staff was more than excellent. My nurse kept me talking and assured me that this type of reaction is more than normal from first time donors. I began to feel better almost immediately, and the nurse slowly worked me back to an upright sitting position.

A half an hour later I felt pretty good, and I decided to go over to the snack table at the canteen. But after about two minutes and one Cheez-It, I wasn’t feeling well again.

Before the words could come out of my mouth there was already a nurse telling me to put my head on the table, and another next to my seat with a wheelchair to take me to a separate room.

In the separate air-conditioned room, I was met by another nurse who again assured me this was all normal for first time donors because our bodies are not used to loosing so much blood. I went through the same process of getting my body back into an upright position, this time taking a little longer.

During my time in the cooler room I was frequently visited by a nurse who assured me this was all normal and alerted me to what side effects I would be feeling the rest of the night which mostly consisted of extreme tiredness.

As I was lying in the cooling room with my mother and a bag of Cheez-It’s by my side, I was thinking about what I had just experienced. I had not passed out, and no permanent damage had been done to my body, I had just been a little uncomfortable for a short amount of time. But what I had just done was saved people’s lives.

Only 5% of eligible donors across the nation donate blood, but the number of transfusions nationwide increases by 9% every year. I was one of the people in the five percent who were choosing to save lives. One pint of donated blood will save at least two people’s lives.

I had a brief moment of realization that I had become a hero. I had not run into a burning building or jumped into a pool, I had simply given up a few hours of my time and donated my own resources to save another human being.

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