It’s a beautiful day to save lives: why giving blood is worth your while

Gabrielle Parrish, Editor-in-Chief

—I’ll give you a cookie and a juice box in exchange for 30 minutes of your time spent saving my life.

—How about two cookies, the juice, and 20 minutes of my time? 

—Okay, okay. How about this? You get two cookies, your choice of juice, and a bag of Doritos for 20 minutes of your time spent saving my life, my friend’s life, and that guy over there’s life. Deal?

—Deal.

I think most people would agree that this sounds like a pretty decent bargain—not to mention that helping save a person’s life is rewarding enough in itself. Yet, of the 38% of the US population that is eligible to donate blood, only about 3% do so regularly.

So why is that? And why is it that, when Liberty conveniently hosts a blood drive on site, only about 30 students actually donate?

It may sound simple, but as a high school student, my guess is that it’s because they never have before. You’re not sure what it’s like, you don’t know how to get started, or you don’t know anyone else who’s doing it—at times it can seem like a lot of work to try something new.

So if you’re one of those people who aren’t donating purely because you haven’t before, let me tell you what it’s like—and why I think it’s not only worth it to donate, but can be fun too.

Every eight weeks, my sister and parents join me for a family-bonding excursion to a blood drive. We usually elicit stares from people who aren’t accustomed to an entire family hanging out, talking, and laughing at the local pop-up blood drive, but I can attest that it’s as good a place as any to spend quality family time.

It’s also one of the few reasons we have to get dressed and actually leave the house these days. Once we’re there, we compare iron levels, make faces at each other from across the room, and race to see who can donate a pint of blood the fastest.

Not to brag, but I win every time. In case you’d like to try to beat it, my personal record is 5 minutes and 23 seconds.

Still, if you’re not the type of person who gets a kick out of anything remotely competitive, there are plenty of other reasons giving blood can be fun.

For one, you get full reign of the snack bar, including all of the cookies and chips and beverages you could ever want. My go-to pick-me-up is typically a chocolate chip cookie and some apple juice.

The volunteers are usually intriguing people too. In the last few months, I’ve met someone with a passion for ceramics, someone who cut and dyed her own hair electric blue, and someone with probably the deepest voice I’ve ever heard.

The way I see it, donating blood equates to time spent with family or friends, yummy food, and the opportunity to meet some really interesting people. 

However, I realize that most of you aren’t particularly curious about the fun environment or how extensive the assortment of cookie flavors is. You probably want to know about the main event. Does it hurt? Are the side effects severe or long-lasting?

First of all, I’m not sure that anyone actually enjoys having a needle poked into his or her arm. I certainly don’t—I was always the kid who cried and ran to their mom every time I had to get a shot, so believe me, I get it.

But my own aversion to needles hasn’t prevented me from donating regularly for the last several years. My secret? Don’t watch.

I have learned that if you never actually see the needle (the volunteers are great about covering them up), you can hardly feel a thing.

And as for any slight discomfort you might feel afterwards, I wouldn’t want to feel dizzy anywhere else; the people who run these drives will bring you snacks, drinks, ice packs—anything you might need or want—and insist that you stay until you’re well-rested and ready to get back on your feet.

Of course, everyone is different. Some people might feel the effects of losing blood, while others, like myself, hardly notice a difference. It depends on the person, and you’ll never know until you try.

Liberty obviously hasn’t been hosting the usual drives during this last year, but the absence of school blood drives—something that blood banks depend on greatly—doesn’t mean that people have stopped needing blood. In fact, this pandemic makes donating now more important than ever.

So think about the three lives you could save for every pint you give, and know that this new experience is more than worth it. 

Afterall, not every hero gets rewarded with a deluxe snackbar.

Sources: American Red Cross, Liberty Honor Society