I was recently able to participate in the Blood Center of New Jersey Blood Drive hosted at the Cedar Grove Rescue and Ambulance Squad on Monday, Jan 14.
Originally, I attended the drive to take some photos and speak to residents for a news story about the ongoing blood shortage. I felt I had to donate, not only to get an inside perspective on the process for my story, but because I was essentially promoting blood donation.
It would be hypocritical if I were to write about the importance of donating blood and then just leave without giving a drop. So I put down my notebook and camera and picked up a form.
I have never donated blood before in my life. I have had plenty of blood tests, especially to check for lyme disease since I often go on hikes and camping trips, but I had never given blood to actually help anyone. It was time.
The process was simple enough, fill out your name, date of birth, all the typical questions and then fill out a short questionnaire. You then meet with a nurse who takes your blood pressure, temperature and gives you a small prick on your finger for a blood sample.
You then answer a few additional questions, some based on sexual and travel history. For instance, you cannot donate blood if you have recently donated, are sick or taking antibiotics or have traveled to countries known for malaria.
I threw them a curveball when I told them about my summer Mediterranean cruise to Italy, Sicily, Greece and Turkey. Luckily, when I was in Turkey I was far enough away from Syria and could still donate blood.
I am not squeamish around blood or needles when I have to get a blood test or get a shot at the doctor's office, but I found myself getting nervous. The most nerveracking part, for me anyway, was sitting with the nurse getting examined.
A million thoughts went through my head. Had I eaten enough today? What if I faint? What did I get myself into?
Everyone from the Blood Center of New Jersey was very nice and answered all my questions to make me as comfortable as possible.
Despite all my sudden anxiety, donating blood was a no brainer. You lay down on a table, lift up your sleeve, feel a minor pinch, squeeze a stress ball a few times and you are done.
I was told it takes everyone different times to fill the bag. Some people are done in a minute, some people take about 20 minutes. Either way, if you can lay on a table and squeeze a stress ball then you will be fine.
After a few minutes the nurse asked me, "Are you ok? How do you feel?"
They put a small bandage on my arm, told me to sit up slowly and after about two minutes I was free to join other donors at the snack table.
I had some apple juice and chips while I chatted with other donors, many of whom were volunteers from the Cedar Grove Ambulance and Rescue Squad.
Giving blood is quick and easy, except if there is a long line, then you should bring a book. But overall, donating blood is painless and it feels good to do your part to help someone in need.
Overall, I'd have to say my first experience donating blood was actually kind of fun — and I didn't faint!
Upcoming Blood Drives
The following drives are listed on the Blood Center of New Jersey's webste.Feb. 23 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament 28 Livingston Ave., Roseland March 11 2 to 8 p.m. Cedar Grove Ambulance Squad 651 Pompton Ave., Cedar Grove March 13 3 to 8 p.m. West Essex First Aid Squad 624 Bloomfield Ave., Caldwell April 23 3 to 8 p.m. First Presbyterian Church of Caldwell 326 Bloomfield Ave., Caldwell