February 16, 2019
As the alarm rings, I get up and get ready for the day. It’s 5:40AM, and I take a cold shower, eat breakfast, and drink some coffee. By 6AM I’m out of the house and head over to a local gas station to fill up my car for the long drive to Rockford.
I arrive early at the Lou Bachrodt AutoMall in Rockford, a local car dealership that hosts many community events such a toy and blood drives, to help table. Today, there will be a blood drive and I’ll be working with Jan Eschen to manage a donor table. A bright and relatively warm morning, the drive itself was expected to bring well over 100 people.
As I walk in, I meet Jan, a regional coordinator of LifeGoesOn who presents and hosts tables at various events across Illinois. I also meet one of her coworkers, a recent college graduate who worked a table near ours. While there, as peoples names were called to give blood, we would greet them and discuss organ and tissue donation.
A concerning circumstance I learned was that Rockford’s blood supply is critically low. They only have enough blood to last them 1 to 2 days. In fact, there is a national blood shortage, according to the Red Cross. After learning this, I decided to donate blood for the first time in my life. One must be 16 years old to donate blood. Luckily, I was just at the cutoff age and I was able to donate with verbal permission from my father. He called in and gave them a confirmation. Here’s how the blood donation process works:
- First you fill out a registration form with basic information. Some sort of identification card is required.
- Then, you will be asked a series of yes or no questions. The employee of the blood bank will ask you the series of yes or no questions, which act as a first round station to check that you’re able to donate. These are all completely confidential.
- After the questions, you take a brief health test which checks for blood pressure, etc. The phlebotomist (one who collects blood) will also take a small sample of blood to test for the amount of iron in your blood. The amount should range between 13.5-17.5g based off of diet. If you’re iron-deficient, you will not be allowed to donate.
- After this initial screening, you will lay in a bed and your arm will be cleaned with an antiseptic, which lowers the risk of infection. 1-2 pints of blood is then drawn by a professional.
- This whole process should take only 8-10 minutes of your time, and immediately after you’re given access to a table of free food and drinks. Post-donation, it is recommended to eat foods full of iron, such as beans and lentils, as well as consume plenty of liquids.
As the day comes to an end, I head home. The major takeaway that I’ve learned today is the immediate urgency of donation – both blood and organ/tissue. The huge problem with the mindset of people today is that many don’t realize the importance of donation until they need it themselves. In fact, 1 in 3 people will at some point in their life need some sort of blood, organ, or tissue donation. Jan, the lady I worked with, recalls that when her father fought in the second World War, people across the nation would generally donate blood every 56 days. It was a social norm because everyone knew of its importance. Today, that sense of necessity has dissipated. It is now my goal to get at least 10 people to sign up for the organ & tissue registry. If a single person’ organs and tissues can benefit 25 individuals, my goal would help 250 people.
Photo Credits: Luo Bachrodt Automall