|Jess with the NOLA Suffragettes; Mardi Gras, 2016.|
As a healthy, privileged, and childless professional woman in my thirties, I often think about how to most constructively give back to society. I have a handful of non-profits that I support regularly (more on those in another post), but I still have financial goals that constrain my giving. A few years ago, it occurred to me that there was something I could give regularly at almost no cost to me and that would make a big impact on the lives of others:
MY M*^%F#@#N' BLOOD.
Free as my blood may be, this was not an entirely happy realization for me. I grew up with a near-phobia level fear of needles. I'm talking cold sweat on my way to the doctor's office level stuff. Feel like I'm gonna puke before the flu shot level stuff. You get the idea.
Not being one to happily succumb to my fears, I decided to "just get over it." Easier said than done. First time I tried to give blood at a bloodmobile, I was so nervous that I freaked the phlebotomist out (name for the person who draws the blood). They had a tiny bit of trouble hitting the first vein and I backed out. I sat calmly and drank orange juice like an actual donor for like fifteen minutes before even attempting to leave.
Fast forward a couple years later, and my new place of employment has an annual blood drive right down the hall from me, clearly just so the universe can taunt me. Seeing my coworkers give blood brings a new wave of motivation-- ok, maybe just peer pressure--to me. I signed up and had the jitters all morning the day of the drive. But I did it! And I've done it twice since then, including once as Passover mitzvah/Easter celebration last Saturday. Because I am such a weenie and have successfully gotten over myself, I decided to revive my ten-year-old blog to share my experience and maybe push other needle-fearers into saving some lives. Here's how the blood-giving process goes, with my semi-pro tips for scaredy cats.
1) Sign up for a blood drive or appointment. In South Louisiana, you can do that at The Blood Center's website. There are some basic weight, age, and other requirements (no tattoos or piercing in the last twelve months, for example) that you can check out here.
2) On the day before and the morning of your donation, be sure to eat some good, iron-rich (think meats or lots of green veggies) foods, because your blood will have to meet the iron requirements.
- I'm told you can do it safely, but I wouldn't go on the first day of my period. That sounds pretty draining.
- Best practice is not to drink alcohol the night before, but this is Louisiana so let's be realistic. Just be sure to be well-hydrated and not hungover. If you're still sweating out the booze, definitely reschedule your donation.
FACT: You are only giving away a pint of blood; approximately one-tenth of your total supplies. You might feel a little tired after, but you are gonna be just fine.
4) MAKE SURE YOU EAT A GOOD MEAL THE DAY OF YOUR DONATION. Coming in hungry messes with your blood pressure. At your appointed time, show up and sign in to the drive/blood center. At this point, you should also grab a free juice, because you're about to lose two cups of bodily fluid.
5) Now you are going to have to do some paperwork, get your blood pressure checked, and get a finger prick to make sure your blood is good to go.
6) Here's the part that freaks me out a little: they give you a bag to put your blood in and you walk yourself to one of the "beds" (reclining chairs) to give blood. The phlebotomist will look at your arms to find the biggest, juiciest vein. If you're like me and afraid of needles and nervous, just tell them. This will help them to help you. They'll rub your arm with alcohol. If you're nervous I recommend looking away and taking some really deep breaths before they stick the needle. I bring headphones and put on some really cheesy, happy, guided meditations.
NOW THE NEEDLE...
is not that bad. It feels like getting pinched hard by your annoying little brother. I found it to be pretty anticlimactic the first time. That didn't stop me from being nervous the second time, but not all fears are rational after all. By the third time (last Saturday), I thought my past fear was kind of funny. I even took a picture.
6) Giving blood will take a longer or shorter time depending on your body. It's a smart idea while you're giving blood to contract the muscles in your legs, arms, etc., to keep your blood pressure steady. You can see they gave me a squeezy thing for my hand for just this purpose. Twice I started to feel lightheaded after I started giving. They lifted the legs on my chair and the feeling went away. They also gave me an ice pack, which felt nice. Apparently I give abnormally blood fast. Lifting my legs helped my blood pressure stay steady. In the future I will just tell them when I arrive. If you start to feel lightheaded, sweaty, or anything out of the ordinary, let them know and they will lift your chair. If you don't say anything you could faint (very, very rare, but I'm being honest with you), but they will help you long before that happens if you just let them know.
- Bring your phone and some earbuds to enjoy music and facebook, or go old school with a book, but definitely have something to pass the time while you're giving.
AND CONGRATS! You now are an everyday hero and an official grown-ass woman (or human)! You might as well go skydiving now, you are such a fearless warrior!!
Till next time,
PS: You will be eligible to give blood again in two months, so keep eating well till you can do it again.