Guide to Donating Blood

"Blood Drive Today" Red Cross sign

Today marks the beginning of the spring American Red Cross blood drive here at WOU. It’ll be taking place today and tomorrow in the Pacific Room from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Experiences of donating blood is very different from person to person, but knowing that it all goes to saving lives is worth every second.

Before signing up to donate blood, there are a few things to consider for eligibility. There are specific medicines and vaccinations, medical conditions, medical treatments, or general health considerations that may affect your eligibility to donate blood. Some examples of good eligibility is:

  1. Being in good health and feeling well the day of donation
  2. Weighing at least 110 lbs
  3. Eight weeks since your last donation
  4. Having an average blood pressure

Unfortunately, there is a 12-month waiting period to donate if you are a man who has had sexual contact with another man under the FDA guidelines (which Red Cross follows). This is a very recent revised recommendation as the previous rule was a lifetime ban on any man who has had sexual contact with another man.

More specific requirements for eligibility can be found here.

So now that you know whether or not you’re eligible to donate blood, you’ll want to make an appointment to donate. To do this head over to the Red Cross website and type in our sponsor code: WOU. Just fill in your name in a time slot and you’re good to go! You don’t have to make an appointment before donating blood, but it will definitely make it a quicker process and you won’t have to wait in line for an opening when you walk in.

Awesome, you’re eligible, you’ve made an appointment, and now here are some tips before you go in to save some lives:

  1. Get a good night’s sleep. You want to make sure you’re not sleepy on the day you donate so there aren’t any problems during or after you donate.
  2. Eat an iron filled breakfast. Eat a light delicious breakfast of eggs and toast or some iron-fortified cereal. Whatever you eat, make sure there’s iron in it so that you’re to a healthy iron level before, during, and after you donate. Your blood will be tested for iron before you donate so make sure you’re eligible!
  3. Speaking of food, try to avoid fatty foods such as ice cream or fried foods before donating. If there is too much fat in your blood, your donation cannot be tested and therefore cannot be used. Feel free to grab an ice cream cone after donation though because that’s what I’ll be doing!
  4. Drink lots of water before donating. It’s important to stay hydrated while donating blood. The weather this week makes it extra important to drink as much water as you can. Water bottles will also be provided in the donating room.
  5. If you’ve donated before, remember to bring your donor card. This will make it a bit faster to get through the paperwork process before donating.
  6. Bring your driver’s license or two other forms of ID.

Okay now you’re prepared to go to the Pacific Room to donate blood. But wait–isn’t there a long paperwork process? Do you have class or somewhere else to be after donating? Red Cross has come up with a perfect solution to make this process a lot faster. Red Cross’s RapidPass makes it so that you can pre-read materials before your appointment. Instead of getting there and having to sit down and read all the materials, you can do it beforehand. After finishing the steps of the RapidPass, you can print out your pass, arrive at your appointment, and get started with donating blood as soon as possible!

It’s time to save lives! To make this donation as relaxing and stress free as possible, here’s some advice:

  1. Wear clothes that make both of your arms accessible so that the person taking blood has easy access to your veins. It’s 80 degrees outside anyway so it’s the perfect excuse to pull out a tank top or a short sleeve shirt.
  2. Let the person know if there’s an arm you prefer blood to be taken from. Perhaps you’ll choose your non-dominant arm or you know which veins have been successful in the past to draw blood from.
  3. Do something to relax yourself while donating because it can be a long process. Maybe bring some jams to listen to or a book to read. Make friends with another donor or just relax and daydream a little.
  4. Pick a pretty bandage if they have some good ones and get an awesome sticker.

Yay you’re done! You just saved as many as three human lives! Hey not so fast, don’t rush off to class. Here’s what you need to do now:

  1. Stay awhile at the refreshment table in the Pacific Room immediately after donating. There will be plenty of snacks and water for you to munch on. It’s important to do this so that your blood sugar is at a healthy level. I mean, you did just donate a pint of blood.
  2. Go ahead and go to class or whatever you need to do after you’ve had some snacks, but make sure you’re drinking an extra amount of liquids throughout the rest of the day. Avoid alcohol for at least 24 hours after donating (it’s the middle of the week anyway).
  3. Keep your pretty bandage on for the next few hours. It may be annoying, but you’ll want to make sure the needle site isn’t bleeding anymore.
  4. Do not do any heavy lifting or vigorous exercising for the rest of the day. I repeat, do not do that. That would be very dangerous as your body needs to take it easy after giving so much blood. I recommend watching Netflix instead. Yes, Netflix is a good replacement for today.
  5. If you become dizzy or lightheaded at any point after donating, stop what you’re doing and sit down or lie down immediately. Stay like this until you feel better. If these problems persist, call 1-866-236-3276 to report what’s happening.

Congratulations! You just became an awesome blood donor. Hospitals across the U.S. thank you for your donation!

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