What you need to know about giving blood
Very few people donate blood on an annual basis. According to the American Red Cross, only 3% of the eligible US population donates blood to help the 5 million in need, which would be the populations of Chicago and Houston combined.
“I have seen firsthand how my critical patients, mothers in labor or pre-mature babies, have survived and thrived after I have given them a blood transfusion,” shares Lisa Caruthers, a nurse with Aurora Health Care for the past 36 years in pediatrics, women’s health and medical rehabilitation. “Even my mom and I would not be here today if it had not been for a life-saving blood transfusion due to my traumatic birth. So, I was not scared the first time to give blood because I knew how important it was for my patients and family.”
Caruthers’ church, Christ the King Baptist Church in Milwaukee, provided the opportunity for her to donate for the first time thirty years ago. The church set up a blood drive and had speakers share the importance of African-Americans giving blood for sickle cell patients. Lisa would then later serve as the parish nurse of her church for the next 10 years, serving on the Holistic Health Ministry Team, which included visiting those who were sick, counseling bereaved families, and helping set up blood pressure clinics and blood drives.
Common misconceptions about donating blood include:
- You can’t give blood if you have tattoos or piercings, have any health or medical issues, or if you have traveled internationally
- It will hurt or it takes a long time to give
- You can’t donate if you are on a medication
- You can only donate once a year
Though there are eligibility requirements to ensure you can safely give to others and a pinch in the beginning to insert the IV in your arm, these misconceptions should not stop you from giving throughout the year.
A few tips to keep in mind when giving blood:
Before your appointment:
- Eat vegetables and protein 1 week prior
- Makes sure to have a good meal beforehand
- Keep well hydrated
After your blood appointment:
- Take it easy the rest of the day (avoid rigorous activity)
- Check your online account in a couple days to see which location your blood went to help at least one patient in need.
- Schedule your next blood appointment online in 8 weeks
Caruthers has always tried to donate 2-3x a year and just this past year was recognized by Versiti Blood Center of Wisconsin for donating a total of 4-gallons worth over the years, which equals out to 32 pints. This means Lisa has potentially helped 96 patients or one patient in a very bad car accident.
At the age of 60, her living legacy to donate blood for others also inspires her son and daughter to give blood.
“I encourage healthy individuals to donate on a regular basis because it saves lives,” says Lisa, “It is truly a blessing and honor to give and be alive.”
Writer’s note: Thanks to people like Lisa and the need for donors in a national blood shortage, I personally have started donating blood again this past year after an unsuccessful attempt in high school over 20 years ago. Honestly, I was surprised it took me this long to get over my fear of what I thought was going to be a painful experience and a long process. I have found it to be neither, and get deep satisfaction in knowing where my blood went to help others.
About the Author
Jennifer Benson, health enews contributor, is coordinator of public affairs for Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She has 10+ years of community development and communication experience for non-profits and has a BA in Architecture from Judson University in Elgin, IL. Outside of work, you can find her planning the next adventure near water or rocks, re-organizing spaces, working on her Master’s in Public Health, caring for her senior citizen cat, keeping to healthy moving and eating disciplines and growing green things wherever she can find room.