Column: Donate blood and save a life

Roughly 220,000 pints of blood are on campus right now. It’s time they be put to good use. Every day trauma victims, premature babies, cancer patients and others need a total of 38,000 units of blood. A transfusion is needed in this country once every two seconds, according to the American Red Cross. Conscious of these facts, I went and donated blood Wednesday.

Across from the 1957 E Street building is the national headquarters of the American Red Cross. I was able to donate right there, directly after my geology lecture. I walked in, took a number and sat down to read the booklet I had been given that explains aspects of the donation process such as who can and cannot donate. More importantly than this, though, were the chairs. I have been to the sixth floor of Gelman and I can honestly say that these seats were more comfortable.

After waiting a few minutes, I was taken to a smaller room. The kind nurse took my temperature and blood pressure to make sure I was healthy. She gently poked and prodded and then drew a minute sample of blood to make sure it was OK. Then I was asked various questions to see whether or not I would qualify as a donor. The questions varied from “Have you visited Ghana?” to “Have you received a blood transfusion in the Central African Republic?” Easy questions. Then came the main event.

I reclined on an even more comfortable chair than before and given a bottle of orange juice. The nurse swabbed the area from which the blood was to be drawn with a disinfectant. Then, the worse part came: the only thing playing on television was “Divorce Court.” So I sat there, subjected to hearing about a 28-year-old woman who is divorcing a 66-year-old man. She claimed that he treated her more like a daughter than a wife – what are the odds? In the end, the husband got to keep their wedding picture. But I digress.

Getting stuck with the needle is less painful than a paper cut. Believe me, it was worse having to watch the trashy TV show. It takes 10 to 15 minutes to bag the required amount of blood, which is about a pint. The nurse placed a nifty, blue bandage where the needle had been an instructed me to sit down to avoid feeling woozy.

I suppose there are many reasons why people do not give blood. One is that they don’t think it is safe, but it definitely is. The most serious side effect from donating blood is passing out, and this is rare. But hey, many college students are familiar with passing out on the weekends, anyway.

Another objection is that giving blood takes too much time. In fact, I was in and out in an hour; an hour I otherwise would have spent procrastinating instead of doing geology homework. My guess is that the primary reason people do not donate blood is fear of that painful needle. As I said before, it does not hurt, nor did it scare me. Here is a short list of things that do scare me: horror movies, heights, loud noises, long walks on the beach and the fact that Microsoft Word corrects my misspellings as I type them.

While eating a bag of complimentary pretzels after donating, I read in The Washington Post about the money that Bill Gates is donating to Africa. Gates and his wife’s foundation has given billions of dollars to fight diseases in Africa. The article estimated that if the research Gates is funding leads to at least one cure, a million lives will be saved.

It is safe to say that no student here is sitting on a vast computer fortune, but we can each make a difference. Every time someone donates blood they can potentially save three lives. Suppose every student at GW donates once – that is 60,000 lives. There is a 56-day waiting period before a person can donate again. If a student gave blood tomorrow, he could donate a total of five times before the end of the year. If everyone gave blood five times, GW could save 300,000 lives by graduation. Roll up your sleeve. Put out your arm. Save a life. It is that simple.

-The writer is a freshman majoring in political science.

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