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Giving to others is a great way to feel whole. And giving blood is a kind, selfless act that can save up to three lives. Now that’s something that can truly touch your heart. But uncertainty about the process often causes first-time donors to hesitate. If you’ve never donated blood, we’re here to ease your mind and empower you to donate by learning what to expect.
How to Register
Whether you’re donating at a blood donation center or at a community blood drive, your first step is to register. You’ll need to show your ID and read some information that will help you understand how blood donations works.
Once you’re registered, you’ll be asked to wait until we’re ready to review your health history. It’s a great idea while you’re waiting to drink extra water. This will help keep your fluid levels high even after your donation so you continue to feel your best.
Next, you’ll be taken to a private area where you can answer questions about your health history. You may answer these questions online, on paper or a volunteer may ask them:
- If you take certain medicines
- Where you’ve traveled recently
- If you have cold symptoms
- When you last donated blood
Rest assured: your answers are kept confidential and private.
Since there are some physical health requirements for donating blood, you’ll likely undergo a quick physical health check. Tests may include a blood sample (finger prick) as well as checking your vitals. To donate blood, you must:
- Have a normal iron level (a low iron level may mean it’s unsafe for you to donate)
- Have a temperature, blood pressure and pulse within a healthy range
- Weigh 110 pounds or more
If you’re eligible to donate, you’ll comfortably sit in a chair or bed where your blood will be drawn from a vein in your arm. To do this, a tourniquet (rubber band) is placed around your upper arm, and you’ll squeeze a stress ball. This will increase the blood pressure in your arm, making it easier to find a good vein for donation.
Then, the area will be cleaned before a small needle is inserted into the vein around the bend of your arm. The needle is attached to a small tube that directs your blood into three different tubes for testing, and then into a blood collection bag. The needle will stay in place until the tubes and the bag is full. Overall, you’ll donate about one out of the 10 pints of blood in your body.
Most blood donations take eight to 10 minutes to complete. And you are encouraged to make the process more relaxing by bringing activities that soothe your mind, such as music, a book, your phone or a friend to talk to.
If you feel light-headed or dizzy during donation or recovery, always tell someone who can help you immediately.
Once your blood has been collected, the needle is removed from your arm and a cotton ball is placed on your arm where the needle was. Holding the cotton ball there for a few minutes before its wrapped or bandaged will help to stop the bleeding.
After about 15 minutes of recovery, where you will rest and have a snack to help bring up your fluid and iron levels, your vitals are checked to make sure that you feel well. Then, you can go about your day as normal. One thing to keep in mind is that you will be eligible to give blood again in 56 days from the date of your donation, so mark your calendars and make donation a regular part of your ideas to pay it forward. Just think, in one year you could possibly save up to 12 lives. That makes you a hero.
After your appointment, your blood donation will go to a processing center for typing and testing. It will also be split into three different usable parts: red blood cells, plasma and platelets.
These three different parts of your blood can help three different people. Your donation will be held in a blood bank until a hospital needs them. For example, your red blood cells may go to someone who was in a serious accident. Your plasma may go to a patient who has a severe infection. Your platelets may go to a patient in chemotherapy. And that’s how with one blood donation, you can save up to three beautiful lives!
If you’d like to donate blood, want to learn more about the donation process or discover other ways you can help, here is a list of resources in your area:
Phone: 888-9-DONATE (936-6283)