One Saturday morning in the summer of 1982, I woke up, threw on my bathing suit and a pair of shorts, and headed to the First Baptist Church to donate blood.
I’d never done it before, but it seemed like a good idea. I don’t know why since I’ve never liked needles or even going to the doctor unless absolutely necessary. It wasn’t peer pressure, none of my friends were there or even knew I was going. It wasn’t money, it was a free Red Cross donation. I had seen a flyer and thought I could help.
As I watched the little plastic bag fill up with my blood, I felt strangely proud, happy that I could do something to help sick people, proud that I could help even though I was only 17.
Afterward, I got a cup of orange juice and a cookie and passed out cold on the First Baptist Church gym floor.
When I woke up, my next-door neighbor was standing over me asking when I had eaten last and if I was OK. Like any 17-year-old, I was completely embarrassed. And like most 17-year-olds I had eaten absolutely nothing all day.
When I got home, my mom was laying in wait.
“Why did you do that? You don’t know anyone who needs blood! What were you thinking?”
I thought I could help.
I was determined to put my first blood donation behind me. So, I checked into a mobile blood bank that was in front of the student union. Unfortunately, I hadn’t learned anything. I hadn’t eaten or had anything to drink all day and the phlebotomist wasn’t able to get a full pint of blood, the minimum needed for a donation.
I felt like a failure.
The same thing happened the next time I gave blood, the technician trying to help me squeeze out a full pint. Finally, he looked at me and said “The more water you drink, the easier it will be.”
Duh. Why didn’t you say so?
Armed with this knowledge, I am now a champion blood donor. I make sure to eat a full meal before I donate and start drinking water at least a couple of hours before that. And my A-positive blood fills up that bag in record time.
I feel proud that I am able to give, that I can help someone. It’s something that I can give even though I’m now 55 years old.
By Amanda Rogers for Surepoint Medical Centers
Amanda Rogers is a freelance writer based in Fort Worth, Texas
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