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5 Gallons Given

Let me start by saying, imagining 5 gallons of my own blood is pretty freaky.. And I hadn't really pictured it until just now, and now it's all I'm thinking about - ew!

But, in all seriousness, I am feeling pretty proud of myself for hitting this milestone! To date, I have donated 41 units, approximately 5 gallons of blood to The American Red Cross. My blood has traveled to various hospitals and likely helped save a life or two. That my friend, is pretty freakin' cool.

Donating blood has always been important to me and my family. When I was younger, my uncle was extremely sick and required many, many, many blood transfusions. If it weren't for people donating blood, he wouldn't have been able to receive those transfusions. We need blood banks to be full, because not only is the blood used for traumatic events, but it's also important to have on hand for elective surgeries that seem straight forward.

I remember going with my parents, on a fairly regular basis, so they could donate. I vividly remember big drives at the MUB at the University of New Hampshire, there were always so many people there - volunteering to run the drive, working the drive and donating at the drive. It was a pretty incredible sight.

In high school, I was volunteering at a drive at our school. I helped people get checked in and what not, but I had no intention of donating - it grossed me out and I was scared. I was standing next to one of my friends as she donated and the woman taking her blood complimented my earrings, they were starfish earrings, which I wore in memory of my uncle (more to that at some point), and I felt like it was a sign - I needed to try to donate.

My first donation was successful and I was quite proud of myself for making it through. I didn't pass out and I think having so many familiar faces around helped me stay out of my own head.

At some point after my first donation, I was in a computer class and one of my classmates (who I already didn't really care for) said something absurd like, "I'll only donate my blood when someone I know needs it." Thinking about those words still makes me cringe. Unfortunately, it's how a lot of people feel and I wish I could just shake every one of them and explain that by the time someone you know needs blood, it's far too late for you to be of help (in most situations).

You see.. Your blood goes through tests before it goes to someone else. Those tests take time and are not something that can just be done in a hospital room. So, what everyone should be doing is donating before anything happens to a loved one, that way the blood is available when it is needed.

The other common response I get is, "I don't like needles," or "I'm not good with blood." Um, yeah.. Me neither! In fact, I get close to passing out almost every time I donate. I dislike needles and blood so much, that I start my pep talk days in advance. Some nights, I can't fall asleep because I my anxiety starts going and I can't stop thinking about it. But, what gets me through is reminding myself that if I were to need a blood transfusion, I am not going to not take it just because I don't like needles or blood. And, I imagine most others wouldn't turn it away for that reason either.

Sure, there are certainly people who cannot/should not donate because their issues with needles or blood may be so severe that it's going to be a health or safety concern.. But, those who just simply "don't like" the idea of it, really just need to suck it up. And seriously, if I can do it, you can do it.

Here are my personal tips and tricks for a successful donation:

  • Increase your iron: Start thinking about your iron intake a week before your donation. Eat yummy foods that are iron rich (red meat, spinach, beans, etc.) and also eat foods with Vitamin C to help your body absorb the iron (fruits, bell peppers, etc.). To donate, females need to have hemoglobin level of at least 12.5 g/dL and males have to have a hemoglobin level of at least 13 g/dL.

  • Hydrate well: Start increasing your WATER intake a few days before your donation. Even if you are someone who is good at staying hydrated, I recommend you up your intake some.

  • Give yourself a pep talk: If you are like me and feel anxious about donating (41 units and I still get anxious every time), start giving yourself a pep talk a few days ahead. Remind yourself why you are donating and what an incredible gift you are giving.

  • Eat before you donate: I mean, don't overdue it, but definitely don't go on an empty stomach.

  • Talk to them: If it's your first time donating or you're like me and get anxious no matter how many time's you have been, let them know!

  • Ask to lean back: Don't be embarrassed to ask them to recline your chair some - this helps with lightheadedness and I wish I had started doing this sooner. They may even put your feet up a little too.

  • Bring a sweatshirt or blanket: You may get chilly during your donation, especially if you do Power Reds. I brought a fleece blanket for the first time at my last donation and I am kicking myself for not starting to do that sooner - it made a big difference.

  • Take your time: Don't just get up and leave when you're done. Take your time - especially if you start to feel dizzy. Sit for a few minutes and slowly get up when you are ready. Again, don't be embarrassed to speak up if you start to feel a little off.

  • Drink the water or juice and take a snack: The little canteen area will have some water, juices and some snacks - drink and eat! Replenish your body - it just went through a lot and you need to replenish it.

  • Drink lots of water for the next few days: Especially if you donate whole blood, your body needs to replenish itself, drinking water and eating good food will help your body do that.

Have questions? Feeling nervous about your first donation? Reach out! I'd love to chat!

For more information on blood donations and to find a drive near you, visit The American Red Cross website.

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