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Liquid Life

May 21, 2012 at 1:56 pm

Michelle Chan is a student at Mountain View High School and Freestyle Academy of Communication Arts & Technology. The following is an excerpt from her book, Liquid Life, which she wrote for a research project at Freestyle Academy.

For as long as I can remember, my dad would come home every couple of months with a pint of ice cream and a bright red bandage around his arm. I was always happy to see the ice cream, as well as my dad, of course. But it wasn’t until I was older that I found out why he got the ice cream. As both he and Baskin-Robbins like to call it, it was “A Pint for A Pint”. For every pint of blood that my dad donated, he would receive a Baskin Robbins coupon for a pint of ice cream in return.

When we were first asked to choose a topic for the book, I wasn’t sure at all what I was going to do. But I finally decided to research the Stanford Blood Center. This topic was introduced by my friend, Paige Topole, who is a volunteer there. During this time I read a book titled Blood by Douglas Starr. The 496-page book was intimidating at first, but I found it to be so full of fascinating information that I was able to use for my book.

I ultimately decided I would document the Stanford Blood Center because I think that its value to the community is often overlooked unless you’re a patient receiving blood. Even though my dad is a regular blood donor, I didn’t know just how much his donation impacts the community until after I researched it. After a couple of trips to the Mountain View blood center I got the opportunity to shadow Paige (pictured below, donating blood) as she went through the donation process and I learned much about how the center functions.

In a few words to describe my experience there are that the nurses are very nice and it has very delicious cookies. Through interviews with both donors and staff members at the blood center, I was able to find out and appreciate all that it offers to the community.

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Imagine that you were just in a head-on collision and you need surgery right away or you will die. That was the case for seven-year-old Brennah Payne who was left with massive internal abdominal damage, a bowel severed in five places, and a broken spine. Brennah was rushed to Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto for immediate treatment. Over the course of six months, she endured surgery after surgery – 22 procedures – and many transfusions of plasma and red blood cells to repair the damage done by the crash. Without the many, many units of blood, her chances of survival would have been slim. Brennah, now fourteen-years-old, is doing just fine and encourages people everywhere to donate blood. Her mother, Heather, knows just how important blood donors are. “I’ve been on the other side,” she says. “Sometimes you think you’re only one person and that one unit of blood won’t make a difference, but drop by drop, it all makes a difference. We’re so grateful”.

Blood donation isn’t anything new. In fact, it started back in the 1600s when one of the first recorded donations of blood took place. Soon, hospitals everywhere started utilizing the human resource of blood. A few centuries later, medical scientist Bernard Fantus found that blood was able to be stored. He called it a “blood bank” and that name stuck. The creation of blood banks came just in time as months later World War II occurred. During the war many makeshift blood donation centers were put into operation to support the number of people giving blood. The Red Cross hired a publicity staff to encourage people to donate blood for the war effort. One poster showed a wounded soldier with the caption, “He gave his blood. Will you give yours?” It rallied the people on the home front to do what they could to help the war effort. Douglas Starr, author of Blood, states “…it became clear that they (blood that was transferred to the soldiers) gave soldiers a psychological boost – not only because they increased the men’s chances of survival, but because those fighting knew the enemy had virtually none. Even the cosmetic effects of blood proved uplifting: Soldiers who were used to seeing their wounded comrades look death-white, even with plasma, now beheld a rosier glow”. Because people had donated blood, the soldiers felt more compelled to fight on. They knew that blood was a powerful weapon that they could use in their advantage. Blood had such a powerful effect on the soldiers and was so very precious.

Albert Einstein said: “The value of a man resides in what he gives and not in what he is capable of receiving.” He is right. Giving to others is a good thing to do. During World War II, people from all across America gave their blood to do their part. Even today, blood is still needed. Roughly five million people need blood each year for surgeries or due to illnesses. Unfortunately, only five percent of people who can donate blood actually do. Approximately every two seconds, someone needs blood. That means dozens of people have needed a transfusion since you started to read this article. Blood banks are always in danger of not having enough. Two contributing factors are that donated blood has an expiration date and patients have to receive their own specific blood type. Donating blood is so important and many do it because they want to help others.

So, why should you donate blood? Of course, the most conventional answer is because it saves lives. But if you dig deeper you will see that donating blood isn’t just about saving lives, it’s about taking part in your community and giving back. It’s about the joy you receive from giving. Donating blood has been a big part of the United States’ history and there’s no reason to stop now.

Click here to see Michelle’s complete research project.