Overcoming bloodletting fears can help others

By Danny Cozzi

I have two major fears: Needles being stuck in my veins and confronting my fears.

Fortunately, I conquered both of those Tuesday at the blood drive hosted by Black Male Initiative. As my iron-rich, A-positive life juice slowly flowed its way through the tangles of a medical crazy-straw, I realized how easy — and helpful — it is to donate blood.

Apart from being a potential all-you-can-suck buffet for Dracula, a blood drive is a great way for people to give back to the community with extremely little effort. The benefits go far beyond you lying down on a mat with an expanding blood bag poking out of your arm.

“We found that 11 percent of African American communities use donated blood, but only 1 percent actually donates. So we’re trying to create more of an awareness of giving blood,” said Reginald Jackson Jr., Blake Male Initiative president.

In an effort to spread awareness myself — and overcome my nauseating fear of needles — I decided to offer my veins, too. As it turns out, offering myself up as a human-sized Capri Sun for a few minutes isn’t half bad. Afterward, the staff even gave me chips, cookies and apple juice.

“I know it’s important to give back,” said sophomore accounting major Preston Mitchell, who also donated blood.

But, despite the fact it’s not as scary as it seems, I still understand why people are reluctant to join the cause.

“People are afraid of needles, I think,” said Don Bramlett, Black Male Initiative adviser.

Of course, before I donated I assumed the experience was being pinned down on a cold metal table with thick leather straps under piercing fluorescent light. I watch too many movies.

“[The impact from donating] is far more important than your … single-handed ability to be afraid of needles,” Jackson said.

Aside from an initial sting, the needle doesn’t even hurt. Then, all you do is lie down, relax and maybe even watch the blood bag fill up. I blame my twisted sense of curiosity for that one.

But the important thing to remember is even if you are scared, you’ll make a difference, and yes, you will survive.

“I didn’t die, so you won’t die,” Bramlett said, laughing.

This column is proof I didn’t, either. Plus, I ate well and drank plenty of fluids before giving blood; as long as you do the same, you’ll be fine.

A little light-headedness is normal, and the dizziness is worth it when you realize the impact you’ll make.

“You save three lives every time you donate,” said Nyisha Richardson, a phlebotomist for Heartland Blood Centers.

Saving three lives by taking 10 minutes of your time is a remarkable tradeoff.

In the time it takes me to walk from the Holmes Student Center to DuSable Hall, I made a monumental difference to someone in need — and you can, too.

What do you have to lose? Well, you’ll lose a little blood. But that’s nothing compared to the joy you’ll get in return.