My biggest fears involve being punctured: shark bites, bee stings, and needles top my list. Ironically enough, roughly every 56 days I find myself laying down on a portable hospital bed at a Red Cross blood drive. This same girl who donates blood actively also cries at the doctor’s office when she has to get a shot. Any time I’m questioned on my donor status due to this fact, I find myself at a loss. No, just because I donate blood a lot doesn’t make me fear needles any less. Yes, I have cried after having the needle put in my arm. Why do I still do it? It’s simple: the need for this limited resource is constant and it is a matter of life or death.
People seem to understand this notion. Some people will donate after disaster strikes. Fewer will continue to donate year-round.
A common sight after large-scale tragedies is an acute rise in the number of blood donations following the event. Something about these calamities brings out the best of human nature; we feel an overwhelming urge to help more than we do the rest of the year. It’s heartwarming, and leaves the one-time donors feeling like they directly helped the victims of disaster.
The reality is that while those events create a spike in donors, blood used in emergency situations is already on hand. Blood only has a shelf life of 6 weeks, so the blood used to treat victims actually comes from stock filled by regular, loyal donors who donated weeks before. So, the impact donors aren’t exactly helping in the way they assume they are. Yes, the now-depleted stock must be refilled, but the issue here is raised when so many people donate blood in one span of time that a sizable amount of excess blood is wasted. That meaning, so much blood is donated that hospitals cannot use all of it before the expiration date. What can we do to combat this? Instead of donating once and en mass, become an active donor. By donating regularly, you can help keep this fund of blood high and prevent wasting of resources.
While we cannot control life, we do have control over our actions and reactions when disaster strikes. One of these decisions is donating blood. If not me, then who? Allow this mindset to follow you throughout the year. Where will cancer and sickle cell patients get the blood to fulfill the high number of blood transfusions they’ll face over the course of treatment? Whose blood will support a car crash victim as they get airlifted to the hospital? Donate not only for the biggest disasters, but for the average patient who relies on generous donors for relief in day-to-day life. After all, 1 in 7 patients that enter a hospital will need blood.
By the time you finish this post, about 60 people in the United States will need blood. That’s one person needing blood about every 2 seconds, folks. Give life, and not just after death.