Donating blood is an easy way to save a life

David Kohn is a Weinberg sophomore. He can be reached at [email protected].

There are few things more noble than saving a life. Most of us, though, never get to save someone from falling off a bridge, or beat up a criminal trying to kill someone, or give cardiopulmonary resuscitation to a heart attack victim. Granted, we’d all want to. It’s just that the opportunity never comes up.

So one is at a loss to figure out why, when a quick, easy opportunity for saving lives comes our way six times a year, most of us pass it up. I’m referring here to giving blood.

Twice a quarter, Student Blood Services sets up donation booths in Norris University Center’s Louis Room, puts juice and cookies on tables near the back, plays a movie, and basically makes it really easy for people to donate on campus.

This might not seem like such a big deal, but unfortunately, the average supply is so low — only 5 percent of eligible Americans donate — that problems develop during nearly every dip in donations, such as during heat waves or the holiday seasons.

But Gerry Oher, the manager of public relations for LifeSource Blood Services, told me that they don’t usually ask for donors during shortages, because people tend to tune out if they keep hearing appeals for blood.

The problem is only getting worse. Two months ago, a patient at a Chicago hospital had a brain aneurysm after surgery, and they had to call five hospitals before finally getting enough blood to save him.

Organ transplants, new cancer therapies and various surgeries all require blood transfusions, and the numbers of each keep going up. If this trend continues — as it almost certainly will — we could have people dying for lack of blood. It could even become routine.

There’s only one thing left to do. We, along with others in our age group, are the future of society. It is incumbent on us to get those numbers up, and this week’s blood drive is a great start.

I asked John Rhyner, the SBS Volunteer Coordinator, if there were problems with people passing out after giving blood. He said that in the five blood drives he’d done, there was only one case of someone getting so wobbly that they needed help.

He also pointed out that donors are under constant staff supervision. And contrary to myth, you can’t get an infectious disease from donating.

You can even be a little selfish about it if you want. Studies show that giving blood on a regular basis rids the body of excess iron, and might prevent or delay heart disease. And keep in mind that your blood might be needed by one of your friends, or close relatives, or even, if it hasn’t been used yet, you. Think of regular blood donations as an insurance policy.

So here’s your “to-do” checklist. Eat something beforehand, and make sure you’re not sick. Even smokers and drinkers are clear to donate.

And if you’re worried about the time investment, either bring something to study or e-mail [email protected] to set up an appointment, and thus skip any lines. Or both.

The drive is in the Louis Room at Norris from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday. If you’re making a habit of this, you’ll be eligible to donate again in eight weeks. Call (800) 486-0680 if you can’t wait for another drive.