Donating blood may be one of the most impactful small sacrifices one can make for a stranger. As of yet, there is no viable way for scientists and doctors to introduce any sort of artificial blood into the human bloodstream and obtain the desired effect. Therefore, any time patients need a transfusion, they’re dependent on the kindness of others, which may be selfless enough to help save their lives. According to the Central Blood Bank, about 38% of the nation’s citizens are able to donate.
Why is it then, that less than 10% of the population actually does?
Giving blood can seem scary, I get it. I don’t like needles either. You’d be hard pressed to find somebody who does. And aside from a blood drive coming to your work or school once a year, it may be a bit of a time commitment to drive to and wait at your nearest blood bank to give a little of yourself. Some may be concerned by the possible lightheadedness or the sight of their own blood being collected in eerie vials. But, hey, nobody said it was easy to do some good in this world. And that doesn’t mean that it won’t be totally worth it.
There are even some benefits for yourself! The most obvious being the fuzzy feeling that comes from building on your positive karmic tally. For a lot of people, it can be quite similar to the feeling they get from doing volunteer work: you took some time out of your day, blood out of your stream, and you helped save someone’s life. That’s got to stick with you for the rest of the day, maybe even week—leaving a certain radiance on almost every subsequent interaction you have.
But aside from that, it’s also quite prescient in that you get to check your blood’s fitness without having to do a full, sometimes costly, medical examination. The doctor on duty is required to give you a mini-physical before the phlebotomist begins the procedure, so they end top checking your heart rate, blood pressure, hemoglobin count, and other essential aspects of your vascular health. This is done to make sure that needy patients don’t receive potentially unhealthy blood, but you can also benefit greatly from knowing this information, especially if you’re still some months away from your yearly physical.
One of the most common problems that comes to light during the mini-physical is an imbalance of iron. If you have too much or too little of this essential mineral, it will sure as day come out on your pre-donation blood work. Knowing this information before any symptoms really come to light can save you a whole lot of pain, money, and maybe even your life. Issues with iron storage can lead to maladies such as hemochromatosis and heart attacks.
So, one way or another, donating blood is one of the best things you can do. You may be giving to your mom, uncle, or classmate, or you may be giving to a complete and total stranger. Either way, you are helping someone stay alive. And you are noble for doing so.
By Andres F. Portillo Del Valle