I’m a scaredy-cat. I readily admit it. I hate needles. That’s always been my excuse for why I don’t volunteer for anything with a needle. Flu shot? No way. Vaccines? I still remember the sheer terror I felt from them growing up. Blood donation? Not happening.
That was until I became communications manager of the Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center in February. Our sole mission is to help save and sustain lives, and to do that, 800 people in our community must donate blood daily. That’s a lot of people who selflessly sacrifice their time and bodies to save others. Suddenly, it seemed extremely petty for me to be squeamish about a little needle prick when literally 20 minutes of my life could help someone else is probably going through the worst moment of his or hers.
I also started thinking about the people I love. If something happens to my husband, my father, my grandmother, neighbor or random person in the office, I’d want them to have everything they need to survive. Blood cannot be manufactured. A live human being must donate every drop used.
It’s a sobering thought.
And also, there’s the dreaded question I’d started getting at my new job: Have you ever donated? It’s a fair question. Every day, we’re asking people in our community to donate blood, and I really had no clue what all that entailed. I mean, I’d been to the lab to see how a whole blood donation gets separated into three parts — red blood cells, plasma and platelets. I’d been to the donation room and seen the kits phlebotomists use when drawing blood. I’d been to the hospital to meet children who depend on blood transfusions to live. But I’d never physically presented myself to donate.
And the more I learned about The Blood Center and our mission, the more I wanted to contribute. I wanted to help save lives.
So, I scheduled my appointment the first day of our employee blood drive. I wasn’t scared. I was excited. This place does so much good, and now I’m a part of it. It was my first time meeting phlebotomist Natalie Bodine, who works in the Bill T. Teague Neighborhood Blood Center. I didn’t know my blood type and had no clue what would be the most helpful, whole blood, platelets or plasma. Natalie said they always need platelets for all blood types, and I readily agreed to stay there the hour and a half it takes to donate them.
And then reality settled in as my excitement turned to something less positive. These people are literally about to drain me of my blood. I get squeamish just thinking about blood too much. I started to second guess myself. Maybe I should go easy and donate whole blood, which takes about 15 minutes. Donating platelets now sounded more ominous.
Natalie readily agreed, and placed a cold pack behind my neck to help settle my nerves. The chair was comfy. I could take a good nap in that chair. And then the moment of truth came. I looked away, as I always do at the doctor’s office when they need to draw blood, felt a slight prick, and then that was it. I was donating blood, and it really wasn’t a big deal at all.
Minutes later, Natalie told me I was in trouble. She’d checked my platelet levels and they were high enough that I could have donated triple platelets. Apparently, that’s a good thing for The Blood Center. She made me promise I’d be back when I’m eligible to donate again for platelets.