Driving through town, we’ve all seen those little red crosses checkered across the side of the road. We know that the need is constant, and everyone knows at least one friend who donates regularly. But not everyone has stepped foot into a blood drive, whether due to fear, lack of time or lack of information.
Well, let’s pull back the curtain. The process of giving blood is surprisingly easy, and here are 10 reasons that everybody who can, should:
10. It’s Totally Safe
Okay, not everyone is the biggest fan of needles. But seriously, every blood donation is done with a sterile needle that is immediately disposed of. Very few people feel faint afterward. The blood is drawn by a trained phlebotomist who specializes in this stuff.
Besides that, it really doesn’t hurt much. A quick prick, and the deed is done.
9. Doesn’t Take Long
Life is busy, hectic, and we’re all way too busy. But the average blood donation only takes 10 minutes, and the entire process—signing in, answering questions, donating, eating some snacks afterward—averages at about an hour. Not so bad, right?
8. So Easy That Anyone Can Do It
There will never be a Blood Donor Olympics, because the process is so ridiculously straightforward. No special skills are required, no stamina, nothing but an hour of your time and a body full of blood. When it comes to helping others in need, there’s nothing halfway as convenient as donating blood.
7. Free Health Screening
Here’s an additional bonus: every blood donation is also a mini-physical, and all blood that is drawn will be rigorously tested. Blood pressure is tested, as well as pulse, temperature and hemoglobin. After a person donates, his or her blood is checked for HIV, syphilis and other pathogens.
Consider it a free health checkup!
6. Free Food
Speaking of free…
Obviously, free food should never be a person’s primary reason for donating, especially since you want to eat a full meal before you go donate. But, the free snacks offered after a blood donation are a nice bonus. Because it’s necessary to eat and drink after donating blood, all drives are stocked with many snacks for donors to indulge in ranging from cookies, to soda, to pizza, to coffee.
5. Yes, the Need IS Constant
Blood is in constant demand, and most of the supply comes from donors. Over 41,000 blood donations are needed every single day, and if people in the US couldn’t receive blood transfusions, then four to five million Americans would die every year. When a car accident occurs, a single victim can need up to 100 pints of blood. Scary thought, considering that a blood donation is only three pints.
4. Good For YOUR Blood, Too
The recipient isn’t the only one who benefits. A frequent donor’s blood will flow in a way less damaging to the blood vessels, thereby resulting in fewer arterial blockages. Basically, frequent donors are 88% less likely to experience heart attacks. In addition, donating blood keeps iron levels balanced.
3. No Substitute
One vital reason that donations are important is because there is no substitute. Many people rely on donated blood. Those ten pints are our life force, the very substance that brings oxygen to our organs.
No lab has concocted a synthetic alternative to blood. People need the real stuff, and it only comes from donors.
2. Not Enough People Do It
Health problems may bar a person from giving blood, but in the US, the Red Cross estimates that about 38% of us can donate. But guess how many people actually do donate?
Less than 10%.
Blood supplies are constantly low, and with such a small group of people donating, they’ve stayed that way. Back in 2012, the American Red Cross announced that the blood supply was at its lowest level in 15 years. Though each person can only donate a small amount, each donation matters in a very real way.
1. A Single Blood Donation Saves Up to Three Lives
Saving one life would be enough, but one donation, as small as it is, can actually save three lives.
After whole blood is donated, it’s separated into three packets: red blood cells, plasma and platelets. Concentrated red blood cells are the most common type of transfusion, but plasma is needed for people with clotting disorders, and platelets are constantly in demand for chemotherapy patients.
So now that we’ve covered the basics, how does a wannabe blood donor get started? Simple: find a blood drive. There’s always one going on somewhere. A quick search online will yield results.
Blood donors will likely never see, hear or know the people they’ve impacted—but those people will know, and they will have the opportunity to live, hug their children, and enjoy a brisk summer breeze, all because of donors who take an hour out of their time, brave a needle, and give just a little bit of themselves to people they’ve never met.
Since I was a teenager, I’ve made a point to give blood every eight weeks. I can say firsthand that if you ever want to restore your faith in humanity, go to a blood drive: there, you will see so many people smiling, laughing, and doing something good for the world, not out of necessity or self-interest, but completely out of compassion for other human beings. It’s a beautiful thing.