Giving blood, saving lives

Upcoming blood bank provides chance to do good.

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Image courtesy of Timbers Army.

Everybody has a different way of reaching out and helping others.

Not all of us have the same talents or tolerances, so we each do something different as a means to put good into the world. Whether it’s donating to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, helping the elderly or simply offering a friend some assistance on a homework assignment, people find the thing that works best for them.

Some people do these things not out of the hopes of a karma kickback, but simply because it’s their passion. That’s the category I fall into right now, and the interest I have is giving blood.

Some of you may have read that last sentence and almost passed out at the thought of blood, but that’s OK. I understand it’s not for everyone. I have friends who feel squeamish at the thought of blood, and other friends who pass out when they see a needle. As a medical laboratory science major, I tend to be OK with most of these things. I believe giving blood is a great cause and a selfless act. The fact each donation saves three lives is really just a bonus.

Last semester, I was able to shadow the lab at Altru Hospital, during which, I got a look at the blood bank. As I was speaking to my guide, I was informed that many hospitals are low on blood. There’s a huge need for donations, and it’s large communities such as UND that are relied on to meet the need.

I was never allowed to donate when my high school had blood drives. They always seemed to fall on days I had a track meet, and my coaches wouldn’t give me time off. As soon as I graduated, I knew I had to start.

I can remember the first time I donated. I am only 20, so it wasn’t too long ago. My dad works for the state, and the first time I donated just happened to be in the parking lot of a state prison.

Sounds sketchy, I know. But it was a great experience.

The folks with Red Cross are always friendly and reassuring. My dad and I donated at the same time, and we had a little race to see who could finish first, even if he didn’t know we were racing.

I didn’t win by any more than a few minutes, but that’s not the point. My point is that donating blood can be a really rewarding experience.

Your first time doesn’t have to be a race or a contest and certainly doesn’t have to be in a state prison parking lot. As long as you make the effort to donate as often as you can, both you and the recipients of your blood will reap the benefits.

I don’t think people understand the perks of donating a pint of blood. The Red Cross says almost 41,000 blood donations are needed every day. If you multiply that by 365 days in a year, that means we need almost 15 million blood donations annually.

And though 38 percent of the U.S. population is eligible to give blood, fewer than 10 percent of us ever do. That seems like a darn shame when there are cancer patients, car accident victims and those suffering from sickle cell disease struggling for their health, and we can’t take 15 minutes to donate.

Donor Resource Coordinator for Dak-Minn Blood Bank Mark Jensen provided some great insight of where your blood might be used if you donate locally.

“A large of amount of our blood products are used by Altru’s cancer center and NICU nursery,” Jensen said. “Other areas that blood is needed is in the day to day procedures … Your blood is going directly to a patient in need, and you are helping share the gift of life with others in your community.”

Donating isn’t just something we should do only once a year though. The time allowed between donations is at least 56 days. The great thing about this frequency is that if you choose to donate that often, there’s almost always a blood drive around the area.

As students, we are in our prime. We are young and able to recover quickly. A quick and easy 15 minute donation doesn’t cost you anything, and there’s a free T-shirt waiting for you if you donate at UND. Plus it’s a great excuse to be able to eat a donut or cookie that day while you recover your blood sugar levels.

I simply can’t think of a reason not to donate.

On Jan. 29, Dak-Minn Blood Bank will be here at UND for a blood drive from 12 to 6 p.m. in the River Valley Room on the second floor of the Memorial Union. Just walk in, show them a photo ID and fill out a quick questionnaire.

You’ll be saving lives in no time.

Mary Ochs is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected].

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