Every year, my high school's National Honor Society organizes a blood drive. The American Red Cross comes in, and sets up a blood donation center in the gym. You have to be 17 or older and weigh over 110 pounds to give blood, so this year was the first year I was eligible.
The Red Cross carefully screens people who are in a high-risk category, like being infected with the AIDS virus. Some of the questions were pretty embarrassing. But I guess it's comforting to know that if I ever need a blood transfusion, the donors have been carefully screened. I had to choose between stickers that either read, "use my blood" or "do not use my blood" to be placed on my form. The sticker was only a bar code, so if I changed my mind at that time and thought my blood shouldn't be used for transfusions, I didn't have to be embarrassed.
When the nurse inserted the needle, I was actually surprised I could feel it, but it really wasn't that bad. It took about 10 minutes, and all I had to do was gently squeeze a little rubber ball to keep the blood pumping. I didn't have to even look. After it was all over, I lay down on the cot for a few minutes, and then was escorted to a table to eat. They had coffee, milk, or juice, and plenty of cookies and crackers. I hung around for a few minutes, and then I was done.
I was surprised at how easy giving blood was. It didn't really hurt, and it felt great knowing that I might actually save a life. Someone I will never know may be given the gift of life. It was such a small act, but even three days later, I am still really proud of myself. I would encourage everyone who thinks that they could be a donor to do so. Find out if your school, local church, or other community groups has annual blood donation drives. If not, it's easy to give the Red Cross a call and find out when and where you can donate blood.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.