The Versiti Blood Center of Illinois (VBC) has been around for quite some time. Starting in 1942, the VBC has been saving lives for 78 years – and shows no sign of slowing down. I recently attended their blood drive held at Kishwaukee to ask a few questions and get to know more about the Versiti Blood Center.
I talked with one of their staff members, Amanda. She has been working at the center for 15 years and loves her job! While I did not get the chance to donate any blood this time, their knowledge and friendly faces will definitely have me coming back.
For those who have never donated blood before, the process is really simple. When you first get there, they have you fill out a questionnaire about your history. The questions help the staff know whether you are healthy enough to donate. For example “have you been out of the country in X amount of years?” Most questions are not too personal but they are very important – be sure to answer honestly.
Next, they check your iron levels. They do this by poking your finger, typically the middle finger, and taking a little bit of blood. Your iron has to be a certain level or you cannot donate. Not only does this protect someone who would be getting the blood, but also protects you from passing out. Iron levels are different for males and females. For males, their iron level needs to be 13. For females, their iron level needs to be 12.5. Women’s iron is more flexible because it accommodates the menstrual cycle.
After you have completed these steps, and they have declared you healthy, you are off to donate! This is for just your basic blood donation, although there are other types of donations. First, they give you a stress ball to squeeze that moves the blood and helps the staff find the vein. Then, they insert the needle and the blood starts pumping. They fill up a pint-sized bag and you are done! This part of the process is different depending on what is being donated but no matter what you donate – they always give you a free snack. For some people, the idea of being poked with a needle is too much. Maybe the needle does not bother them but seeing the blood is unbearable. If you are uncomfortable donating blood but you still want to help out, there are a few positions available. You can help out with registration by handing out the questions or monitor the refreshments and make sure people are eating at drinking after donating.
If you have a tattoo, or multiple tattoos, perhaps you have not donated because you thought you could not. Well, get ready to head to a blood bank. The old rule was you could not donate blood within a year of your most recent tattoo. Some places have changed that rule and you are now able to donate no matter how long ago your tattoo is* – as long as it was done by a professional and has healed completely and properly.
*Depending on the size, tattoos take about 2-3 weeks to heal, however it can take up to four months for all the layers to heal completely.
As mentioned before, there are other fluids you can donate. VBC can take blood, red blood cells, plasma, and platelets. With VBC, they can do all of this however, when traveling the Kish they cannot take platelets. Wherever you donate, whether it is with VBC or somewhere else, be sure to ask where your blood would be most beneficial. Different fluids might need a certain blood type. The most common blood types are A+ and O+. The rarest is O-.
Tips For Donating!!
Be sure to eat before donating, preferably breakfast and lunch. There are certain food types that will help increase your iron levels.
Be sure to drink lots of water!!
Take a friend with you – the more the merrier.
Trust the staff – they are well educated and know what is best.
Do not freak out – it is a very simple process and it saves a lot of lives.
Check out Versiti Blood Center for more information and stop by your local blood bank today!
Health Research Funding
American Red Cross