Paul Gross: Donating blood is easier than it looks

Each pint of donated blood can save up to 3 lives

Paul Gross donating blood. (WDIV)

DETROIT – If you had the opportunity to save someone’s life, you probably wouldn’t hesitate unless circumstances prevented any realistic attempt.

Now, let’s turn that statement around: If somebody had the chance to save your life, would you want them to? Of course you would, and that’s how you need to approach your decision to donate blood. Each pint of blood you donate could save up to three lives!

READ: Gardner-White partners with American Red Cross to host blood drives throughout Metro Detroit

A lot of people are squeamish or afraid of giving blood, and I’m going to put a stop to that right now and demystify the process for you. It’s actually very easy.

First, the American Red Cross is very stringent in screening donors to keep the blood supply safe. You’ll have to first fill out an extensive questionnaire to outline your medical history -- and you can do this ahead of time at home or work on the day you donate. That saves you 10-15 minutes when you get there to donate.

When you arrive, you’ll furnish identification to prove that you are who you are, and they’ll then do some quick vital sign checks -- temperature, pulse, and blood pressure. Then, they’ll do a finger prick to secure a single drop of blood to check your hemoglobin level. If this test shows that your hemoglobin is too low, then you will not be allowed to donate (this once happened to me. I was later told that the caffeine in the big mug of tea I had earlier in the day may have been the culprit).

As long as the hemoglobin checks out, you’ll then be taken to a table, where they’ll ask you which arm you’d like to donate from. They’ll have you lie down, find a good vein to use, then sterilize the area. At that point, they’ll stick a needle into that vein. You’ll feel a brief poke of pain, but it goes away pretty quickly. You can handle it!

At that point, blood starts flowing into the collection bag, and you won’t feel a thing. Believe it or not, the actual donation takes less than 10 minutes for most people!

They then take out the needle, bandage your arm, and have you slowly sit up. You’ll then walk over to a table for some water and snacks.

I’m often asked if there are any side effects after donating. The answer is simple: For almost everybody, there are no side effects, as long as you eat a meal and drink a lot of water before heading over to donate. Here’s one additional piece of advice: Don’t have salty meals the day before or day of your donation, as salt dehydrates you.

I had to donate on Monday this week because I had conflicts on Tuesday and Thursday and could not get to Gardner White to participate in our blood drive. The photo you see above is me holding the blood I donated. I was so happy holding that bag, knowing that somebody was going to receive it, and that my taking an hour out of my day saved a life.

I want to close with two brief stories.

The first time I ever donated was at a blood drive held here at Local 4. The woman from the Red Cross who was our coordinator told me that she has one of the rare blood types, and that there was not a single pint of her type of blood in the entire Southeast Michigan inventory that day. Not one pint. Imagine if she was in a serious crash and needed blood.

The second story was when I was in the hospital with my father, of blessed memory. He wasn’t doing well, so they decided to give him a pint of blood. Within the hour, he improved immensely and perked up. It was unreal how that little bag of blood transformed him.

Donating blood is one of the most amazing things you can do. You are saving a life (or two, or three) without running into a smoke-filled building on fire, or dodging traffic running to pull somebody out of an overturned car, or trying to wrestle an armed person to the ground. You do it when you want to, and there’s virtually no risk to you. It’s a true badge of honor, and it’ll feel so good when you get to tell friends and family that you donated. Please do!

If you want to be a part of the Local 4/Gardner White blood drive effort Tuesday or Thursday this week, you must register ahead of time. All of the details are right there for you on, and who knows -- you might get to be on TV!

About the Author:

Local 4 meteorologist Paul Gross was born in Detroit and has spent his entire life and career right here in southeast Michigan. Paul has researched, written and produced eight half-hour documentaries for WDIV, as well as many science, historical and environmental stories.