Monday, October 24, 2011

My name is Melissa and I am a junior majoring in microbiology and an officer in the Student Red Cross Club.  I have donated nine times and counting.
When I was in high school, I was the co-chair of our Blood Drive Committee, so I felt obligated to donate.  There was absolutely no way that I could ask people to donate and not give myself.  That being said, it was not an easy decision for me.
The entire week before donating, I was a nervous wreck.  The night before, I couldn't sleep at all.  And, when it was time for my mini-physcial to take place, I nearly passed out.  By the time I was actually donating, everyone, staff included, kept telling me that I didn't actually have to donate.  There was no way, however, that I was giving up at that point.
So I did it.  And guess what?  It wasn't bad at all.  Now, every time I come back to donate, it gets easier and easier.  I get rejected all the time because my hemoglobin is too low, so I just come back a week later and try again.  I won't give up just because it's easy to do. 
I donate because it's necessary, it's easy, and it's one of the most rewarding methods of volunteering out there.  By giving a little of my self, I can literally help someone to survive.  It's such an amazing thing to do, and I am so grateful that I took the first step back in high school.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

I had another positive experience donating blood. Everyone was very nice and it was a fast process. When I said I was dizzy they brought me an ice pack and helped make me more comfortable.
Today was my second time donating blood. It was a really enjoyable time. Everyone who was involved was so nice and considerate. I try to donate as often as I can because my grandfather had bypass surgery two years ago and needed about 4 pints of blood after. And there may come a day when I might need blood, and I would like to feel that I contributed to society and not just took from them when I needed it.
-Terence O'Shea

Blood Drive

Today was my first time donating blood, and i must say it was a beneficial experience. The minor inconvenience of donating is far outweighed by the benefit you give to the Red Cross. Also, the cookies are really good, especially given their size. Usually, large cookies are lacking in texture and flavor, but these were both flavorful and chewy. I recommend it to everybody else.

HUB 9/15

The process was fast and easy, with minimal wait time. The whole staff was helpful, motivated and knowledgeable and were able to answer all of my questions. I would definitely donate again!
Benjamin Munschy
BMB Major

Thursday, September 15, 2011

So, Why did you Donate Today?

My name's Suraj Naik, and I donate blood.

The first time I donated I was 17, 6-foot-1, and 140 pounds. Exactly. I felt a little lightheaded after that donation, but the entire process was markedly painless - an unexpected result. The girl who walked me to the mats was pretty cute, and I had a conversation with a couple of our school's football players while trying to stay awake. Somehow, it certainly gave me the impetus to do it again.

When I began donating, I rarely if ever thought of a legitimate reason to give blood. People need blood via accidents, transfusions, surgeries, and other procedures. I have plenty - ok, well, not that much, but enough to spare for a few others - thus, I donate. There's also free food and drinks. I mean, what other reasons are there?

Then I came to Penn State in Fall of 2007. That semester I donated two times (at a much healthier weight of 170), but it wasn't until I discovered something called THON that I finally encountered the primary reason I and thousands like me donate every 56 days.

Fast forward to my first canning trip in October, about a week or two following the blood donation. I went with an organization that was not the Student Red Cross Club (SRCC), the group that I now consistently can with every opportunity I get. Before this trip, I learned a few things here and there about THON and the Hershey Medical Foundation. At this point, the Four DIamonds Fund was an unknown entity. I was seriously misinformed. After two days of eight-hour marathons of money collection, I slept about twenty hours on Sunday night and missed my first class the next morning (Nutrition 251 was the bane of my existence that semester). I endured it for the sake of actually getting to know the people of the organization, and as a result, I created a solid group of friends (who have all graduated, but whatever).

A couple canning trips later in the next semester, I met my first THON family. We canned on a Saturday in the middle of the awesome January weather, and on The organization's THON child packed a punch - literally. She was (and still is) learning karate, and to be honest, she could kick my butt with little trouble even at age 11, when we last met. Her parents were pretty much opposites. The mother had no issue talking to every kid who walked through the door. The father had trouble starting conversations, but he could talk football all day long. As for the girl, I knew little about what she went through, how she felt, and why this one kid was able to receive a Penn State family among the hundreds of thousands of others who are inflicted with the disease.

After another donation and a little talk with a couple of the members of the SRCC (i.e. forced coercion to reveal vital personal information that will likely turn up on some Facebook post 24 hours before I get my next job), I learned even more about what happened with my donations. Donations help everyone who suffers from diseases, not just people who suffered an accident or an injury here or there. I understood that to an extent but not to any degree that would make me motivated to keep giving. They can only be kept for so long - hence, the reason "shortages" may not seem like shortages, but are still shortages (get it?). With an A-positive blood, my blood was not in that high demand, but they still didn't refuse me because all blood types really are needed. Again, I kind of understood this stuff - more smalltalk.

Then came THON weekend. I was expecting a fair or carnival-type atmosphere; What I got was a celebration, concert, pep rally, and memory service all in one. Insanity may be the best word to describe it. Pure mayhem. Hundreds of people fitted on the BJC floor partying as they energize themselves for 46 hours of nonstop everything. Beefed-up jocks helping the tiniest kids. Sorority girls being far more friendly than I remember the people who had described them to me. I was not expecting that.

And I certainly was not expecting a useful lesson on blood and blood donations. That happened at the most unforgettable moment. Family Hour. 1 hour before the end. The most painstaking hour of my time at Penn State. A slideshow depicted all the cancer patients who passed away in between the previous THON and the current one - dry eyes were absent. Faces and names kept passing. Tears kept falling. People held arms. Others looked to the floor. Every single one knew the importance of what they were witnessing.

Then came the one man who really gave me THE reason to donate. I don't remember his name, but I remember his message. The blood lost. The fear. The agony. The sheer about of days staying by his daughter's hospital bed praying, wondering, fuming, crying - any emotion that decided to find its way out of his body was wriggling out. Those days he talked about how she constantly needed attention, hope, and just as importantly, blood. Cancer patients need blood, and her system constantly required more and more as the treatments got more invasive and painful. Unfortunately, she didn't win her battle. It was eye-opening. I could see how jst one pint of my blood would be the difference between a cancer patient living or dying - a frightening thought. I wanted to donate more often. Her father said he couldn't save his daughter, but I know his words saved a few lives in the future that day.

Then a year ago I sat in the house of Gabe Angus. Ok, he's the THON child, but he pretty much owns the house so let's leave it at that. The weeked of my 11th(?) or 12th(?) canning trip was  just beginning. We reached the house on Friday night and had a couple confrontations regarding how some cars forgot to get food before reaching the house and how those cars suck and whatever. All that was irrelevant. Gabe's mom, Connie, knew what was important. Late that night when we were all prepared to encounter the next day of December snow. I already knew the speil about how we help, and how blood helps, etc. (I didn't need to pat myself on the back considering I do that plenty anyway). Taking us aside, Gabe's mother gave us the most important story she could.

The hell that Gabe suffered.

She discussed his procedures, his friends, and how his nurse became an important part of his life - cute but sad at the same time. He developed a need for blood, and though I felt I was experiencing deja vu with the man who spoke before thousands at the BJC three years earlier, this time the speaker was mere feet from me, talking to fewer than 40 volunteers. She gave me a clearer picture of the daily grind, but the family was just as concered about the tens of hundreds of others suffering in that building. The kids younger than Gabe who barely knew anything aside from cancer. The families who never anticipated how pain could come without a single touch. She spoke about what we did for the community, and how we consistently get blood for the people who need it is just as important as donating.

Motivation? Hardly. There doesn't exist a word strong enough to describe how THON and the THON families have converted me from a "blood donor" to someone who understands that a "donation" covers far more than one word can possibly encaptitulate. Every 90-pound girl who passes out after each donation understands it. The person who waits two hours in the HUB for ten minutes at the canteen understands it. Every single member who makes the Student Red Cross Club the organization it is right now understands it.

I've discovered that it's now a little harder to tell a blood drive volunteer the answer to, "Why do you donate?"

4th Time's the Charm?

Hi! My name is Emily Dong; I was last year's Donor Retention Chair for the Student Red Cross Club, and I'm acting as the Sponsorship Officer this year. I donated blood for the first time in high school, and I've been trying to donate as regularly as I can since then. I went to China this past summer and hiked the Great Wall, which was an awesome experience, but unfortunately defers me from donating blood for a year because of the risk of malaria in that region of China. I had a feeling that I'd be deferred for travel reasons when I got back, so I wanted to donate blood again before I left. My blood iron level tends to be just short of the cutoff, so I get deferred a lot, but I didn't expect it to take me the entire summer to be able to finally donate. It took me four tries and three iron deferrals (and eating lots of beef) before I finally succeeded. So to those of you with insanely high blood iron levels (can I borrow some please?), keep on donating! And to those of you with omg-seriously-I'm-only-off-by-0.2 g/dL?!?! blood iron levels, keep on trying!

Caroline Pember's Donation Experience

Hi, I am Caroline Pember, the Student Red Cross Club Secretary for the 2011-2012 school year! I started donating blood when I was 17 in High School. My High School held a blood drive one day and it seemed like everyone was donating to get out of class... and to be honest that's a big reason why I donated. I mean, yes I knew it was a good thing to do, but I never really realized how important donating blood is until I got to Penn State in my Freshman year. Nothing really crazy happened when I donated. I felt a slight prick and there was barely any pain at all. I got to stay at the canteen, eat and socialize as long as I wanted.

Fast forward to the beginning of my freshman year, I constantly saw signs for blood drives. I figured, since I donated before, I could do it again... Plus, it seems like they really need people to donate. So, I went to Pollock Commons to donate blood for the second time. I ended up feeling the same way that I had after my first donation. Donating wasn't hard.. it was a piece of cake (Which Is was I got a the canteen that day after I donated... well, maybe it was cookies, but I though that was fitting :)) Though I felt the finger prick a bit, It was nothing to really worry about.

At that point, I thought, "Well, cool. I get to eat cookies and other fun treats for laying down, donating blood, for less than 10 minutes! Sounds good to me!" So, I continued to donate and eventually joined the Student Red Cross Club at Penn State and realized just how important donating blood is. Yeah, I knew donating blood could help save lives. What I didn't know is how much blood is needed CONSTANTLY. I realized that so many people need blood- from cancer patients, to victims of car accidents, to premie babies, etc. People in car (or other) accidents coul potentially need 100 units of blood (that's 100 people's donations!!!) WOW. What's even crazier to think about is that every two seconds, someone needs blood. Because of this constant need for blood, we need people to consistantly give blood who are able. I am so passionate about blood donation for these reasons, but I am even more passionate about donating because I actually know people who have needed blood transfusions to save their lives-- my THON children, Gabe and Fisher. Actually seeing these kids having fun and enjoying life now, knowing that they were hurting for many months/ years, makes me want to help others that are like them- that are not doing too well.

Donating blood had been a great experience for me not only because of the free food (HUB Peanutbutter cookies!!) but because I know that I am helping someone- potentially saving their life.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Community Donor Stories

Check out these donor stories, submitted by everyday people who take the time out of their day to donate blood and help save a life :)

Second Time's The Charm

The first time I donated blood was at my high school.  Despite a fear of needles, I wanted to help out with the cause.  However, I had trouble getting past my fear and during my donation I became very upset.

Still wanting to help out and get over my fear, I promised myself I would try again the next opportunity I could.  After graduation that year, I began my first semester at Penn State during the summer.  Half way through, I happened to be walking through the HUB and right past a blood drive.  I walked right in, knowing if I made an appointment ahead of time, I would back out beforehand due to my nerves.  It was the best decision I could have made.

The volunteers at the blood drive, all members of Penn State's Student Red Cross Club, welcomed me and offered to help me in any way they could.  I asked one of the girls to stay by my bed and talk to me while I donated so I wouldn't think about it too much and psych myself out.  Not only did she take the time out of her day to stay and talk to me, but she hold my hand during the entire thing.  I still jokingly tell her that I think she saved my life that day.  Her presence kept me calm and I was able to get through my own fears and help save someone elses' life

10 donations later, I'm still donating blood every 56 days and I still love to have someone hold my hand.  I keep donating because it is the best feeling ever knowing I am only taking an hour out of my life to potentially save three lives.  Over the past four years at Penn State, I have met so many amazing volunteers, employees of the American Red Cross, and donor recipients.  Each of them has touched my life in some way and I am inspired by the individuals and families I have met whose lives have been saved from blood donations.  Although, my first experience wasn't the best, I am so happy I took a chance and tried again.  As I said before, it was the best decision I could have made. 

Please give donating blood a chance.  Help save a life.

Julie Agee
Vice President, Penn State Student Red Cross Club