Thursday, July 31, 2014

Blood donations make a difference

Shortages throughout the nation should encourage students to overcome fears and give blood to those in need

There are two small words in the English language that, when placed side by side, generate a mixture of reactions — some realize the gravity of these two words, while others shrink back in fear or brush them off as if they did not care.

Give blood. One response I have heard when these two words come into conversation includes positive reassurance that the need for blood is realized and the challenge accepted.

But too often, I hear responses that show me the fear of needles is real and the impact that one donation of blood can have is not as obvious as it should be.

As Liberty University hosts another blood drive, it is not uncommon for a large number of students to participate. However, with the need for blood so great, too many people are holding back for fear of nausea or lack of incentive to willingly allow a needle to pierce their skin.

“They think that their blood is not needed,” Michelle Westbay, marketing communications lead for Virginia Blood Services, said. “Maybe they have a very common blood type … and they think that we have plenty of that on hand. A lot of people also just think that it’s scary.”

According to the Virginia Blood Services website, blood shortages would disappear if only one more percent of Americans would give blood.

“Seventeen percent of non-donors cite ‘never thought about it’ as the main reason for not giving, while 15 percent say they’re too busy,” the website states.

As someone who has received two blood transfusions, the reason for not giving blood because of busyness does not cut it for me, nor does the fear of needles. The Virginia Blood Services website states that someone in America needs blood every two seconds, and an average of three lives are saved with just one donation.

I cannot comprehend why someone would let nausea get in the way of saving the lives of three people. True, after thinking how the blood from two different donors once flowed through my veins, I hold more bias on the subject than those who have never experienced what it feels like to need blood. But should not the mere thought of saving the lives of three people stir a desire to overcome nausea or the fear of needles?

If there is an issue with people “not thinking about it,” then something needs to occur to promote more awareness of the need for blood.

“We try to get the word out as much as we can,” Westbay said. “We rely a lot on our coordinators to … spread awareness and just promote education. I know it’s not top-of-the-line for most people, but I think that the more education we can get out there, you know, other organizations get out, the better.”

In the grand scheme of things giving blood is not a big deal for the donor. It takes about an hour of time before getting up, walking out the door and carrying on with life. One hour to save three lives.

“It makes a difference,” Westbay said. “I think if you ask a handful of people, at least one of those people will have had an impact or have had … someone related to them or a friend who has been affected by a blood transfusion. Maybe they know a recipient or have some sort of success story. So it is pretty crazy to have that type of (mindset) for your blood, you know, to go directly into someone. It supports life, you know? It definitely saves a life. And not just one life, but three lives. It’s a huge impact. You may never know who your blood is going to, but it’s needed.”

To this day, I still think about the fact that there are two people somewhere who, nearly eight years ago, gave up an hour or so of their time to give blood, maybe not even thinking about the 14-year-old girl in the hospital bed who would receive their blood. It might not seem like a big deal to the donor, but to those of us who are alive today because of the people who put aside their own comfort, it is not just a big deal — it is our lives.

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