by Dave Wagner, Public Affairs Volunteer
I had heard that one pint of blood from just one person could save up to three lives. I read that the national emergency blood supply was at its lowest level in more than a decade. I was told that donating my blood would be safe and easy. But aside from these few factoids, I realized that I knew next to nothing about blood donations. So I figured it was time to find out more – and do my part to help.
It was easy to make an appointment at RedCrossBlood.org – I chose a day and time at a nearby location that fit neatly into my schedule. You can also call 1-800- REDCROSS to set up an appointment.
My first stop was registration where I was greeted by Megan Miller. It was her very first day as a Red Cross volunteer! She got me signed in and went over the basic eligibility. She took down my address along with some basic info and asked to see my ID. Then she gave me some information about donating blood that I could read while I waited just a short while for my turn.
Megan told me she was very excited to become a Red Cross volunteer. She worked for Red Cross Blood Services for two years when she graduated nursing school and later became an RN anesthetist, working at UCLA and Kaiser for 30 years.
About her decision to volunteer after retiring last year she said, “I felt like I wasn’t doing enough. I love my free time but wanted to do something to give back.”
Next, in private and confidentially, I answered a few questions about my health history and places I’ve traveled. I was asked about any prescription or over-the-counter medications that were in my system. Then my temperature, pulse, and blood pressure were taken, and my hemoglobin level was checked.
Now I was ready for the actual blood donation, handled by Morayma Carranza, who has been a phlebotomist with the Red Cross for 18 years. She made sure I was comfortable and then cleansed a section of my arm in preparation. I felt a quick pinch and then relaxed for about ten minutes as a pint of my whole blood was collected.
When I asked Moyrama why she has been with the Red Cross for so long, she replied, “Every day is different. Every day the crew is different. All the wonderful donors share their stories along with their blood. That’s what makes this job so much fun.”
Some of the other donors were happy to share their stories with me. Gary Hughes told me that he first donated 43 years ago after the Red Cross responded to a fire at his brother’s house one night. “I was very impressed with the Red Cross. They were there within a half hour and gave him blankets, food and a voucher for a place to spend the night. I’m AB positive and know my type is really needed. People always need blood and you never know when you are going to need it.”
Samer “Sam” Almaoui is another longtime donor, giving every two months for the last 40 years. And he even has the Red Cross Blood Donation App on his cellphone to prove it – his stats measure the amount of blood he has given in gallons! “I help humanity. We help each other. I go on Facebook and tell all my friends.” Sam first encountered the Red Cross when he lived overseas in a war-torn country. He donated blood then because the need was very apparent and continued to give when he came to live in the U.S.
After donating, I met Kathleen Reimers having a snack and something to drink in the refreshment area. She has been donating since high school. “The blood I give will help people,” she said. “I’m hoping to save a life of someone that needs blood right now – like in a car accident or someone who is sick.”
Like the folks I met while donating blood, you too can enjoy the feeling of accomplishment knowing you are helping to save lives. The Red Cross national blood inventory is the lowest it’s been in almost a decade. Why not schedule an appointment now by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767)