(illustration by Joaquin Romero) In November, CB hosted its biannual blood drive, an opportunity for students to take some time and donate to a good cause. Dozens of students donate their blood each semester, but what does the process actually entail? And why do people do it? In search for an answer, I asked students […]
(illustration by Joaquin Romero)
In November, CB hosted its biannual blood drive, an opportunity for students to take some time and donate to a good cause. Dozens of students donate their blood each semester, but what does the process actually entail? And why do people do it? In search for an answer, I asked students throughout the day about their experience with the blood drive.
According to Athletic Trainer Mrs. Darci Calista, who currently runs the blood drive, it’s been a staple at CB for as long as she can remember.
“It’s been here for a really, really long time,” she says. “I took it over for another teacher that left”
And according to science instructor Mrs. Nicole Brousseau, who also helps run the event, the blood drive is simply a result of CB’s own philosophy.
“We are all about service and helping — it fits into what we do,” she said. “That’s who we are at CB — helping others. And what better way than to help them live?”
Mrs. Brousseau has been running blood drives since she was in college, and estimates that this was her 14th event. And Ms. Calista has run the past 10 blood drives at CB and has donated blood a collective 40 times.
“It’s an easy way to help save a life,” Ms. Calista replied. “It doesn’t cost money — just a little bit of time.”
“I think people see that it helps people, or at least are aware of how much it helps,” Mrs. Brousseau says.
Giving blood costs a person almost nothing, but can in turn save multiple lives. Most donations are only a pint of blood, at most one tenth of our total supply and is an amount that regenerates within 24-48 hours.
So why don’t more people donate? For a lot of people, it’s fear. According to the Community Blood Center, at least 10% of people have a fear of needles, though that number is probably much higher. For many more, it’s that they simply don’t know that they can donate. Would you if not for the one we host?
A blood drive like CB’s not only helps actually collect blood, but also raises awareness of the issue going forward. Even if you can’t give blood, simply telling other people about a blood drive can go a long way.
Another big factor is convenience. While we students may love the fact that donating takes us out of school for an hour, others find it hard to amass that kind of time, especially when there isn’t a blood drive in their area. So what is it like actually donating blood?
Personally, this was my fourth time donating blood, and the process has always seemed almost natural. Back in sophomore year when I knew very little about the process, I was motivated largely by the idea of skipping class and stuffing my face with donuts for roughly an hour. Since then, I’ve thankfully found a very different reason to donate blood.
When I first gave blood, I was surprised that the small amount you give is enough to save three adults or ninety-six babies. I also learned about the nationwide shortages of blood and that donations last at best for only forty-two days. But what shocked me most is that of the 37% of people eligible to give blood, only 10% ever will, and fewer will do it regularly. This made me feel like my donation, all of our donations at that, really matter, and since then I’ve made a point of giving blood at every opportunity and encouraging others to do the same.
But what did other people have to say about their experience? After donating, I asked a multitude of fellow donors what their thoughts were on the process and received quite a lot of answers. For Pavan Singh (‘19), it’s mostly a grade boost.
“I’m doing it because I get points for my leadership class,” he admitted, before adding that “ it’s something cool to do that I’ve never experienced before.”
Emelia Sprott (‘20) also felt obligation from a class.
“I’m in sports med, I feel like I have to,” she said.
But for a surprising number of students, the pressure was from friends, not classes.
“Everyone else was doing it, and it’s nice to save a life, so why not,” said Cecelia Sidley (‘19)
“Me and my friends decided it would be a good thing to do,” Calvin Fiske (‘20) said.
Meanwhile Owen Larson (‘20) donated for purely selfish reasons.
“I want to skip class, get free food, and wear jeans,” he said,
And for Evan Brousseau (‘19), the reason for donating is a sense of obligation.
“I do it because I’m O- [blood type], the universal donor.”
But among all these responses, the overwhelming answer was the sense of satisfaction for doing something good. As put it,
“I think it’s better for everyone,” says Jelani Morton (‘19). “If I’m not using it I might as well give it to someone who does”
But despite this passion to donate, the majority of students still don’t. I asked some of the donors what fears they were overcoming by donating. For Pavan and many others, it was a fear of needles.
“I did not like the needle,” he said, “Whenever I saw the needle I needed to turn away”
“I was afraid of the needle not going in right away or them hitting something else,” added Koda Smith (‘20).
For most people, the phobia thankfully ends there. After their first time giving blood, the vast majority have no problem doing it again.
“The first time I was scared, but it was an irrational fear,” Evan says.
Still others have an entirely different reason to be afraid.
“I thought I would pass out or something would go horrendously wrong,” said Lily Schubert (‘20).
While a lot of people feel nausea after giving blood, thankfully only a small minority pass out. And if you do, the workers are there immediately to help.
Finally, some people also had some pretty unique fears. Cecelia’s was borderline vampiric,
“I’m really scared that they’ll take all my blood,” she said.
But in the end, most people’s fears lasted only as long as it took to be sat down. So what did people actually like about the blood drive? Naturally, the most common answer was the food.
“The cookies at the end, obviously,” Evan answered, as he was gathering a plate full of them.
But others had their own favorite parts.
“The people were really nice,” said Sophia Mattos (‘19). “They kept distracting me and having a conversation with me to help me throughout the process.”
“I liked the little pinch and when they took the blood sample,” said Patrick Pierson (‘20).
“Actually holding the bag, getting to feel how warm your blood is,” Jelani said. “It’s crazy!”
With the next blood drive on March 1st, I asked the teachers and students if they had any advice for those planning to donate for the first time. Mrs. Brousseau’s biggest suggestion was to prepare the day before.
“Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate, at least a day before,” she stressed, “Eat a good breakfast and rest afterwards.”
The sad fact is that a lot of people willing to donate are barred from doing so because of dehydration, nutrient deficiency, or another diet-based factor. Eating well beforehand not only increases your chances of being able to give blood, but also minimizes the nausea and fatigue you get afterwards. Ms. Calista also advised students to not worry about the idea of pain.
“It can be scary your first time, but your saving up to three lives,” she added, “Once you get over that first fear, it feels good.”
While I personally wouldn’t go as far to say it felt “good,” the whole process was far from painful, and the staff do all they can to make sure that you are as comfortable and pain-free as possible. But don’t just take my word for it; many students agreed that the process was surprisingly painless.
“I expected it to hurt a lot more,” said Lily Schubert, a sentiment echoed by almost every person interviewed. For Alicia Reyes (‘19), getting blood drawn wasn’t even the worst part.
“The finger prick hurt more than getting blood drawn,” she said.
So for anyone on the fence about giving blood in March, don’t let fear get the better of you. Look at the blood drive for what it is: an opportunity to save lives, skip class, and eat food.