It may be bloody, but just do it

| Staff Columnist
(Erin Michell | Student Life)

(Erin Michell | Student Life)

Never mind the bruises covering both (yes, BOTH) of my inner arms. Never mind the matching bandages I had to wear around campus for all of last Wednesday afternoon. Never mind the terrifying and disorienting dizzy spells that kept me out of psych class.

I feel good.

I gave blood for the first time last week through the University-wide drive. I was excited for the experience up until the guy looked at my arm and said, “Uh-oh.”

Uh-oh? Why uh-oh?

“I should have brought the miniature needle,” he explained.

After several failed attempts to insert the needle, my right arm was bruised and sore. Blood had soaked through a gauze bandage, but unfortunately none had made it into the collection bag

“Butterfly veins,” he told me. “We can try sticking the other arm if you’re game.”

Well, I was NOT game for any more sharp probing under my skin, but I wanted to give blood. I was going to be late for my next class anyway, and I decided I was not leaving until I had given blood.

“I’m game,” I announced.

It took four volunteers and 13 minutes to collect enough blood from my other arm.

“You’re the toughest case of the day,” they told me afterwards.

“Slowest collection we’ve seen so far,” they said.

“That’s going to bruise.”

I’m not going to lie: needles hurt. But the feeling I’ve been carrying around inside ever since makes the pain irrelevant. It’s a feeling of purpose. Of importance. I knew the blood drive was important from the moment I set foot in the room; LifeSource even provided bottled water for the event.

So it hurt to have a needle break my skin. My arms are bruised—and bruises hurt, too.  But somehow, even with the hurt, I feel good.

I feel good about myself, about the pint of blood packed into a cooler somewhere, and about the University for letting me make a tangible contribution to the world in 13 minutes.

I feel good not because of the collection of stickers I received (“First Time Donor!” “Be Nice to Me…I Gave!” “V.I.D. – Very Important Donor”) and not because of my new Red Cross T-shirt.  Not because of my free bag of Chex-Mix and bottle of water.

I feel good because I’ve learned that an adequate blood supply is vital for hospitals, and I can offer direct assistance by providing it. I feel good because I discovered that my friend has given his blood five times, and shrugged off my incredulity.

“It just makes me feel good,” he said.

Sometimes it feels like I am more privileged than I deserve, and the discovery of this vibrant, life-saving, renewable resource running through my veins has been incredibly empowering and humbling.

I feel good because I did something that every young, healthy college student with 13 minutes to spare should do.

Worst-case scenario, giving blood takes 13 minutes. Just do it.

Kate is a  freshman in Arts & Sciences. She can be reached via e-mail at kemarcal@artsci.wustl.edu.

  • Valerie

    Unfortunately gay men do have a higher rate of HIV infection as the method of sexual intercourse is more traumatic to the skin. This is not really debatable. Unfortunately, as well, screening does great things is not perfect. What is less known is that one gets Hep C 10x more frequently than one gets HIV from a blood transfusion and no one complains that IV drug users are discriminated against in blood donation.

  • Seth

    Too bad the Red Cross still doesn’t let gay men donate, discriminating against a segment of our population by implying that gay men are infected with HIV/AIDS at such a higher rate than the rest of the population, it is dangerous to take their blood even while all donations are screened for the virus.