Donating blood has been a ritual for my dad for as long as I can remember. That 56th day would hit and the vampires at the blood bank would be calling for his Universal Donor blood. Growing up I didn’t think much about it other than the excitement I felt over a new printed t-shirt.
Picture this covering the front of an XXL men’s t-shirt in stick man style:
“See Pete drive.”
“See Pete crash.”
“For Pete’s sake – GIVE BLOOD.”
I donned this favorite t-shirt on the regular. I mean, what a catchy slogan! After all, I would never have to give up any of MY blood. Right?
My life-liquid and I have had a very close relationship over the years. So close in fact that I’m grateful for every moment that it stays inside my body where it belongs. There’s just something about pulsing, oozing, dripping blood that makes me weak in the knees. That’s how in love we are – me and my blood – that I get weak in the knees when I see it.
Flash forward to my college years when blood drives were common on campus. I was with my sister, M, between classes and we both decided to take our courage pills and offer up our arms. After an hour of paperwork, questions, tests, and waiting it was discovered that I was too fabulously slender (*Cough* *Cough* painfully thin) to donate. Dodged that bullet!
Don’t get me wrong, I knew just how lifesaving blood donations are. A few years after my first blood drive experience, I and team of friends organized a blood drive of our own in honor of a friend who passed away suddenly from complications to a blood disorder. Donating blood is necessary and noble but…there was still just something about a straw-sized needle, my arm, and a bag full of MY blood that didn’t sit well with me.
Something was eating at me, though… People all around me were, are, or will be in need of my universal donor blood. A friend of mine had multiple cancer surgeries. Another friend is having cancer surgeries soon. A tiny baby friend will be having heart surgery when she turns two. Despite my nervousness and overall TERRIFIED-ness donating blood was something I wanted to do. It was something I needed to do!
“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.” – Mark Twain
Fast-forward many years and I am pleased to say that as of today I have both resisted and mastered my fear of donating my life-giving-liquid and (as of Saturday) have successfully donated FOUR pints of BLOOD.
It’s safe to say, though, that the road to “Donator” has not been an easy one for me. I passed out the very first time I donated. I’ve had painful and pain-free donations. I’ve gotten big bruises and no bruise at all. I’ve exceeded the pulse limit and I’ve failed the hemoglobin test.
It’s also safe to say that I hate every single thing about the donation process. I hate sitting there and sweating like a nervous Nelly. I hate it when they use a pen to plump my veins. I hate having a straw-like needle in my arm. I hate having a tube full of my warm blood trailing down my wrist. I hate it when they reposition the needle. I hate seeing my blood slosh around in that blood-weighing sloshy thing. I hate having a sore arm afterwards.
BUT. The best part of life is that it’s not all about me. And I’m 100% sure that I still want to donate every single time that I can. My body makes it and I want to share it for as long as I am able.
I’m certainly no pro when it comes to a bleed of perfection, but I have learned some valuable lessons over the last four donations:
#1. Eat a MEAL with PROTEIN an hour before you donate. Not just a wimpy snack!
#2. If you don’t eat meat (aka vegetarian or vegan) then you MAY want to consider whether you have enough iron to…uh…share and then you may also want to consider whether you should bulk up on some iron-rich foods the week of your donation.
#3. The day of your donation you should be drinking water like a camel coming back from Camp Desert. I mean LOTS. I have also found that evening donations are easier for me than morning donations. The phlebotomist suggested that the reason could be that I am more hydrated in the evenings. True that!
#4. After blacking out during my first donation, my phlebotomist explained to me that my body couldn’t decide wether I was donating a pint or whether I had decided to chop off my arm… SO it decided that the safest option was to quell the geyser with a sudden dropped in blood pressure. Thanks for looking out for me, Bod! The phlebe explained that to keep your system calm you have to keep your blood circulating. So when you’re hooked up and you got that squeezy thing in your hand you just gotta do these simple exercises: squeeze your butt cheeks for 5 seconds and release for 5 seconds, squeeze your abs for 5 seconds and release for 5 seconds, squeeze your thigh muscles for 5 seconds and release for 5 seconds, and repeat until your arm is all wrapped up. If nothing else you’ll walk out of there 1 pint lighter, with buns of steel, Channing Tatum abs, and quads visible from space! You’re welcome.
5. Eat the snacks they give you! It’ll help you get back to your strong, sassy self. Plus, who in their right mind passes up free food?
I wish I could be there to be your donating buddy, but alas! I’d still love to hear from you! Have you got a special someone in mind that motivates you to donate? Have you got any funny blood donation stories? What about any advice? I’d love to hear from you all!
Peace, Love, and Blood,